Merriam-Webster Announces 2004 Words of the Year

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., November 2004 — Merriam-Webster Inc., America's leading language reference publisher, has announced the year's top ten words and definitions as culled from its popular Web site Merriam-Webster OnLine ( The 2004 Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year list is based on users' anonymous hits to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and Online Thesaurus as well as lookups on Merriam-Webster (, a premium Web site that offers exclusive online access to the Eleventh Edition of the best-selling Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary.

The number one word of the year, receiving the largest number of user-requests by a wide margin, is blog, defined in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition as: "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer." Eight of the top ten words relate to breaking news stories from the past year, ranging from the 2004 presidential election (electoral, #3) to natural phenomena (cicada, #6). Topping off the list is defenestration, the winning entry in Merriam-Webster's "What's Your Favorite Word?" online survey held earlier this year.

"While most of our online dictionary lookups are for slightly difficult but still generic nonspecialized vocabulary," said John M. Morse, president and publisher of Merriam-Webster, "it does sometimes happen that words in the headlines so grab people's attention that they become a most frequently looked-up word. That is what occurred in this year's election cycle (to a level not seen since the days of 'chad' in 2000) with voluminous hits for words like 'incumbent,' 'electoral,' 'partisan,' and, of course, our number one Word of the Year, 'blog.'"

"By tracking the words people are looking up on Merriam-Webster Online, and by paying careful attention to the thousands of e-mails we receive each year from visitors to our sites," said Morse, "we are developing a better idea of what people want from reference sources. Online customer response can help lead our editorial staff to make adjustments in revisions of print dictionaries."

Traffic to Merriam-Webster Online now exceeds 100 million individual page views per month. On average, the company responds to approximately ten lookup requests in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary or Thesaurus per second. During peak hours, this may increase to more than 100 requests per second.

For the complete list of Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year, including definitions, please visit

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Merriam-Webster Inc. acquired the rights to revise and publish Noah Webster's dictionaries in 1843. Since then, Merriam-Webster has maintained an ongoing commitment to innovation, scholarship, and love of language. Today, the company continues as the leader in both print and electronic language reference publishing with reference products, learning tools, and word games.

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