A suffix is the Word of the Year because a small group of words that share this three-letter ending triggered both high volume and significant year-over-year increase in lookups at Merriam-Webster.com. Taken together, these seven words represent millions of individual dictionary lookups.
Read on to find more about each of these words, and the events that triggered them, as well as five other words that sent us to the dictionary in 2015.
The suffix -ism goes all the way back to Ancient Greek, and was used in Latin and medieval French on its way to English. Originally, it turned a verb into a noun: think of baptize and baptism, criticize and criticism, or plagiarize and plagiarism. It has since acquired many other uses, including identifying a religion or practice (Calvinism, vegetarianism), a prejudice based on a specific quality (sexism, ageism), an adherence to a system (stoicism, altruism), a condition based on excess of something (alcoholism), or a characteristic feature or trait (colloquialism).
Ism is also sometimes a noun meaning “a distinctive doctrine, cause, or theory” or “an oppressive and especially discriminatory attitude or belief.” It’s usually used to emphasize a group of -ism words, as in “cubism, abstract expressionism, and all the other isms.”
There are 2733 English words ending in -ism entered in Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged dictionary. The top seven isms account for millions of lookups in 2015.