NPR logo Top 10 Words Of The Year Include 'Austerity,' 'Socialism'

Top 10 Words Of The Year Include 'Austerity,' 'Socialism'

Define your terms, please. Whitney Curtis/AP hide caption

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Whitney Curtis/AP

The number one, most-searched-for word at Merriam-Webster.com this year:

austerity, defined as "enforced or extreme economy." Lookups for austerity peaked dramatically several times throughout the year, as people's attention was drawn to global economic conditions and the debt crises in Europe ...

"Austerity clearly resonates with many people," said Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large at Merriam-Webster, who monitors online dictionary searches. "We often hear it used in the context of government measures, but we also apply it to our own personal finances... ."

Here's our post from July on the political/economic debate between austerity and stimulus. Here's Sokolowski talking about austerity on Morning Edition.

Number four on the Merriam-Webster list was "socialism," another word that got thrown around a lot in public discourse this year.

In fact, we heard it so much that we interviewed a socialist to find out what "socialism" really means. (We also interviewed a libertarian, to get a clear explanation of "libertarianism.")

Here's Merriam-Webster's complete top 10 list:

  1. austerity

  2. pragmatic

  3. moratorium

  4. socialism

  5. bigot

  6. doppelganger

  7. shellacking

  8. ebullient

  9. dissident

  10. furtive

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Hat tip: Economix