Merriam-Webster Inc., America’s leading dictionary publisher, has announced its top ten Words of the Year for 2014. This year’s list was compiled by analyzing the top lookups in the online dictionary at Merriam-Webster.com and focusing on the words that showed the greatest increase in lookups this year as compared to last year. The results, based on approximately 100 million lookups a month, shed light on topics and ideas that sparked the nation’s interest in 2014.
The Word of the Year, with the greatest number of lookups and a significant increase over last year, is culture. Culture is not associated with any one event, but instead dominated the headlines this year, on topics ranging from “celebrity culture” to “rape culture” to “company culture.” In years past, lookups for the word culture spiked in the fall, as students encountered the word in titles and descriptions of courses and books, but this year lookups have moved from seasonal to persistent, as culture has become a term frequently used in discussions of social phenomena.
“Culture is a word that we seem to be relying on more and more. It allows us to identify and isolate an idea, issue, or group with seriousness,” explains Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large for Merriam-Webster. “And it’s efficient: we talk about the ‘culture’ of a group rather than saying ‘the typical habits, attitudes, and behaviors’ of that group. So we think that it may be the increased use of this newer sense of the word culture that is catching people’s attention and driving the volume of lookups.”