Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Merriam-Webster's word of the year for 2017 has been announced and it's one you've definitely heard before: feminism. And given that international marches for women's rights and the revelation of long-suppressed stories of sexual misconduct by leaders in Hollywood, the media, and politics have come to define this year for many of us, it couldn't be more a more fitting choice by the publisher.
Merriam-Webster defines feminism as: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests.”
The word of the year is chosen partially based on how many lookups it has, and the company has some interesting data on when throughout the year the word was most searched. It spiked during news coverage of the Women's March on Washington in January, and again when Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said in an interview a few weeks later that she doesn't consider herself a feminist. Increased interest in the word also came during the release of Wonder Woman and Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, which just goes to show the tremendous impact that female-driven entertainment can have.
“No one word can ever encapsulate all the news, events, or stories of a given year,” said Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster, in a statement. “But when we look back at the past twelve months and combine an analysis of words that have been looked up much more frequently than during the previous year along with instances of intense spikes of interest because of news events, we see that one word stands out in both categories."
Merriam-Webster names nine other lesser words of the year, which for 2017 include "complicit" (which began trending following SNL's now-infamous Ivanka Trump parody), "recuse" (in reference to Attorney General Jeff Sessions), "empathy" (a word frequently used as an attack on Trump), and "dotard" (something Kim Jong Un once called Trump). So, yeah, clearly politics has played a huge role in the words we've collectively looked up this year.
In case you're wondering, 2016's word of the year was "surreal", which still feels very applicable to a lot of what's going on in the world, from terrorist attacks to political strife. But while that word implies a level of passivity—of simply looking around and thinking "isn't this just so surreal?"—this year's word is about standing up and doing something about it, just like the first feminists did over 100 years ago.