Dictionary at the Evansville Public Library. You can't really tell, but its opened to the entry on "photography." (Photo : Flickr / greeblie)
Merriam-Webster, publisher of the popular dictionary, released its annual "Top Ten Words of the Year" list, and for the first time, chose two words for the top slot.
"Socialism" and "capitalism" headed the list, both ranking as the most looked-up word of the year.
Interest in socialism and its definition was spurred by the rhetoric of the presidential campaign, with Republicans tossing the word about like confetti, apparently without taking the time to look it up first like so many other people.
And naturally, people flocking to online dictionaries then turned their attention to capitalism and the differences between the two economic systems.
Traffic for the two terms doubled from 2011.
"Malarkey" very nearly made the top of the list, after Vice President Joe Biden used it in reference to Paul Ryan's assertions during the vice-presidential debate in October. The term is an old Irish word meaning "nonsense."
Merriam-Webster compiles the list each year by analyzing the most frequently-searched terms on its website and cross-referencing them with words from the news and terms that experience sharp spikes in popularity.
"They're words that sort of encapsulate the zeitgeist. They're words that are in the national conversation," said Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster. "The thing about an election year is it generates a huge amount of very specific interest."
Other politically-inspired words on the list include democracy, globalization, marriage and bigot.
Many people headed to their computers to look up the dictionary definition of marriage during the fight over same-sex marriage. Social conservatives kept insisting that equal marriage advocates were trying to change the meaning of the word, so where better to research?
The sociological and evolutionary term "meme" also made the list. It was first coined by Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, in 1976 in his book "The Selfish Gene."
While genes propagate through sexual selection and procreation, memes are ideas that are passed on through cultural inheritance.
However, most people know memes today as silly pictures with humorous captions; they were ubiquitous in the aftermath of political gaffes.
Rounding out the Top Ten Words of the Year are touché, schadenfreude and professionalism.