Trending: surreal

Lookups spiked 500% on January 26, 2020

Why are people looking up surreal?

Surreal was among our top lookups on January 26th, 2020, following the death of Kobe Bryant and eight others, after the helicopter in which they were traveling crashed in Southern California.

Mood inside the AT&T Center somber, surreal after reports of Bryant's death
— (headline) KVUE (, 26 Jan. 2020

What does surreal mean?

We define surreal as “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.” The word that often spikes in response to calamitous events (such as the bombing of the Boston Marathon, and the school shootings in Newtown), or following the unexpected death of a beloved public figure (as with Robin Williams and Princess Diana).

Where does surreal come from?

Surreal is a back formation from surrealism (“the principles, ideals, or practice of producing fantastic or incongruous imagery or effects in art, literature, film, or theater by means of unnatural or irrational juxtapositions and combinations”). The shorter word began being used in the 1930s; surrealism entered English in the 1920s, from the French surréalisme (from sur- + réalisme, “realism”).


Actor Paul Walker’s death in a fiery car crash under a clear-blue California sky Saturday continues to feel so incredibly sad, and so surreal.
— Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune, 2 Dec. 2013

Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.

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