Time magazine has its person of the year (it was the Ebola health workers for 2014 ), and likewise, Merriam-Webster, the company behind the trusted English dictionary, has its word of the year, which for 2014 was the word "culture" in all of its definitions.
Merriam-Webster said in its announcement earlier this month that "culture" is a "big word at back-to-school time each year, but this year lookups extended beyond the academic calendar." The company chooses its word of the year based on a set of criteria that includes the number of online searches for a particular word and how much those searches rose from the previous year.
It said that in 2014, the word has moved beyond its academic or classroom usage to "the conversation at large, appearing in headlines and analyses across a wide swath of topics."
Merriam-Webster's primary definition of "culture" is the "beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time." Other definitions include "a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc." and "a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)."
The company's list of the top 10 words of the year included "nostalgia," for which Merriam-Webster said lookups more than doubled this year; the term "insidious," which was helped by the "Insidious" movie franchise; and "feminism," which spiked after the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, which found that companies can't be forced to pay for insurance coverage for contraception if their owners have religious objections.
Last year's word of the year was "science." Merriam-Webster is part of the Encyclopedia Britannica Co.