Inspired by queries based on current events including the Trump family, Russia scandals, and a rash of celebrities being accused of sexual misconduct, the reference website Dictionary.com has named “complicit” its word of the year for 2017.
The website announced the selection Monday, noting that the word is “indicative of larger trends that resonated throughout the year, hitting every aspect of today’s culture from politics and news, to environmental issues, business, tech, and more.”
“Lookups for the word complicit increased by nearly 300% in searches in 2017 as compared to 2016,” said Dictionary.com CEO Liz McMillan. “We continue to see a direct correlation between trending word lookups and current events, and we find it encouraging that our users are dedicated to understanding the language and words that pop up in the biggest news stories of the year.”
The website defines the word as “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others.”
The biggest spikes in searches for the word came thanks to Ivanka Trump and an “SNL” skit.
The first came in March, after “Saturday Night Live” aired a perfume commercial parody that had the first daughter, played by Scarlett Johansson, selling a fragrance called “Complicit.”
Weeks later, the word saw another spike after the real Ivanka Trump told “CBS This Morning” host Gayle King “I don't know what it means to be complicit.”
The third biggest increase in lookups for the word came in October, after Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) blasted President Trump in a speech on the Senate floor in which he announced his retirement. “I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit,” Flake said.
Dictionary.com also mentioned climate change as one of the reasons for their selection, writing, “Additionally, the new [Environmental Protection Agency] chief Scott Pruitt has been complicit in his refusal to acknowledge that humans play a primary role in climate change.”
The recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations against celebrities and politicians also played a part in the website's choice. “These powerful men could not have harmed so many people for so many years without the complicity of their associates and the established practice of ‘turning a blind eye’ to misconduct,” the site wrote.
Politics was also the inspiration for another dictionary's choice of word of the year. Collins Dictionary gave the honor to “fake news,” a favorite phrase of Trump’s; he regularly uses it to deride unfriendly media coverage of his administration.
Dictionary.com had some fun with its announcement on Twitter, jokingly saying that they had chosen “covfefe,” a nonsense word tweeted by Trump in May.