Press Release

2009 Word of the Year


The 2009 Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year list is based on actual user lookups to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and Online Thesaurus. This year's traffic was generated by topics and events ranging from Michael Jackson to H1N1 to the recession and, of course, politics. The word of the year that received the highest intensity of searches over the shortest period of time is "admonish."

"Admonish shot to the top of the list three days after Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during a speech made by President Obama, and it remained among our top lookups for weeks," said Peter A. Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster's Editor at Large. "When the House announced plans to 'admonish' Rep. Wilson, the word was understood to be technical or official, and it has been repeated often in coverage of recent contentious political issues. While this particular story wasn't very important in the context of a year's worth of news, it triggered enormous interest in this word."

Traffic to now exceeds 1.3 billion individual page views per year. On average, there are 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.

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year for 2009:

  1. admonish
  2. emaciated
  3. empathy
  4. furlough
  5. inaugurate
  6. nugatory
  7. pandemic
  8. philanderer
  9. repose
  10. rogue