Merriam-Webster Inc., America's leading dictionary publisher, has announced its top Words of the Year for 2015. This year's data-driven list is determined by two simple criteria: the words must show a high volume of lookups and a significant year-over-year increase in lookups at Merriam-Webster.com. The results shed light on topics and ideas that sparked the nation's interest in 2015.
This year, for the first time, Merriam-Webster has named a suffix, -ism, as its 2015 Word of the Year, reflecting the fact that many of Merriam-Webster's highest ranking words this year had one thing in common; they ended in -ism. The list of high-ranking -isms begins with the most looked-up word of the year, socialism, but also includes fascism, terrorism, racism, feminism, communism, and capitalism.
"Socialism has been near the top of our online dictionary lookup list for several years," explains Peter Sokolowski, Editor-at-Large at Merriam-Webster. "However, this year lookups moved up even further, beginning with the July campaign events for Bernie Sanders, remaining high throughout the following months, and spiking again after the first Democratic debate in October."
Terrorism was frequently looked up during the past year, particularly following attacks in Paris, Colorado Springs, and San Bernardino. Responses to those attacks, including Donald Trump's comments about banning Muslims from entering the United States, also drove lookups of fascism.
Police violence, the South Carolina church shooting, and the University of Missouri protests were among the reasons that lookups of racism increased this year.
Amy Schumer's success, Hillary Clinton's candidacy, and coverage of Caitlyn Jenner's story contributed to spikes for the word feminism.
Non -ism words looked up in large numbers in 2015 include marriage, which peaked when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples could marry nationwide, and minion, because of the hit movie The Minions.
"These words reveal our curiosity and our engagement; we're looking at the news through the prism of vocabulary," added Sokolowski. "A definition can be the beginning of reflection. This year, we've certainly had a lot on our minds."