And Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year Is…

The editors at America’s Merriam-Webster do things a little bit differently than the British chaps at the Oxford English Dictionary. And we’re not just talking about where they throw their vowels and how many definitions they have for tosser.

When it comes to choosing their respective words of the year, Oxford’s choice is more editorial, a qualitative selection meant to embody a shift in culture, while Merriam-Webster relies more on the numbers. And so, by figuring out which of their most popular words experienced the biggest spike in lookups this year, the editors based in Springfield, Mass., settled on a winner: science.

That choice may seem quotidian next to Oxford’s buzzworthy selection, selfie, but the editors argue that their word embodies the culture of 2013 in its own way. “Our data shows … that many of the most looked-up words in the dictionary are words that reflect the big ideas that are lurking behind the headlines,” writes Editor-at-Large Peter Sokolowski in a statement.

The editors link science, a word users looked up 176% more than last year, to political discussions of climate change and education, as well as Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, criticized as a misrepresentation of science.

Last year, socialism and capitalism took away a joint title as Merriam-Webster’s word of the year, following pragmatic in 2011 and austerity in 2010.

Here are the runners-up rounding out their Top 10 for 2013, along with the lookup jumps that got them there: 2. cognitive – 158% 3. rapport – 145% 4. communication – 139% 5. niche – 138% 6. ethic – 134% 7. paradox – 130% 8. visceral – 130% 9. integrity – 127% 10. metaphor – 124%

Katy Steinmetz, Time.com

 

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