Word of the Year 2010

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., December 20, 2010–Merriam-Webster Inc., America's leading language reference publisher, has announced the Top Ten Words of the Year for 2010. This profile of America's mood and interests is determined by the volume of user lookups at Merriam-Webster.com in response to current events and conditions.

Topping the list is 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, but lookups also remained strong throughout the year, reflecting widespread use of the word in many contexts. "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 and what is sometimes called the new normal."

Number two on the list is pragmatic, a word that rose steadily in searches this year, both during the election season and the political negotiations that followed. "In a way, the popularity of pragmatic is reminiscent of 2005, when integrity was the most frequently looked-up word," said John M. Morse, President and Publisher of Merriam-Webster. "In both cases, I think the word described a quality that people value highly, want to understand fully, and are looking for in their leaders."

Although a number of words on this year's list reflect a somber national mood, one notable exception is ebullient – "having or showing liveliness and enthusiasm" – which leaped to the top of the searches as the world watched the rescue of the Chilean miners.

Merriam-Webster's #1 Word of the Year for 2010:

1. austerity (noun)

: enforced or extreme economy

Click on each of the other words in the 2010 Top Ten List for more information:

  1. pragmatic
  2. moratorium
  3. socialism
  4. bigot
  5. doppelganger
  6. shellacking
  7. ebullient
  8. dissident
  9. furtive

Word of the Year Archive