Feminism is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year

Feminism was named Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2017 on Tuesday, marking another victory for women’s empowerment in the United States over the past 12 months.

Merriam-Webster, a leading dictionary publication since 1828, said feminism was chosen based on a “quantitative measure of interest.”

When feminism was first added to the English dictionary in 1841, it was described as “the qualities of females,” the company said, but the definition has morphed along with societal ideals and current events through the decades.

Currently defined as, “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” as well as, “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests,” feminism saw a 70 percent spike in searches compared to 2016, according to Merriam-Webster.

“No one word can ever encapsulate all the news, events, or stories of a given year—particularly a year with so much news and so many stories,” Merriam-Webster said on its website Tuesday. “But when a single word is looked up in great volume, and also stands out as one associated with several different important stories, we can learn something about ourselves through the prism of vocabulary.”

The company outlined several points throughout the year that showed spikes in the number of searches for the word on its website, including the Women’s March in January and when Trump administration spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway said she did not consider herself a feminist in February.

“As with other words that spiked this year, such as fact and complicit, the definition of feminism was itself the subject of the news story—an invitation for many people to look up the word,” Merriam-Webster said in its analysis of the Word of the Year.

Other events that caused feminism to spike included the increasing allegations of sexual misconduct against prominent men in politics, media and entertainment – most notably with regard to the #MeToo movement.

Rounding out the Merriam-Webster’s top 10 list of Words of the Year for 2017, in ranking order, were complicit, recuse, empathy, dotard, syzygy, gyro, federalism, hurricane and gaffe.


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