Feminism is word of the year, Merriam-Webster announces

<i>Feminism</i> is word of the year, Merriam-Webster announces
The Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster has named “feminism” its word of the year for 2017, citing the Women's Marches in January and the recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations against celebrities as reasons for their choice.

Feminism, which the dictionary defines as both “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests,” saw a 70% increase in searches on the Merriam-Webster website.


“No one word can ever encapsulate all the news, events or stories of a given year,” Merriam-Webster’s editor at large said in a news release. “But when we look back at the past twelve months and combine an analysis of words that have been looked up much more frequently than during the previous year along with instances of intense spikes of interest because of news events, we see that one word stands out in both categories.”

The dictionary also cited the entertainment industry as a possible reason for the spike in searches for the word, citing the popularity of the Hulu series “The Handmaid's Tale” and the blockbuster film “Wonder Woman.”

Handmaids from "The Handmaid's Tale," based on the book by Margaret Atwood, at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Handmaids from "The Handmaid's Tale," based on the book by Margaret Atwood, at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

Merriam-Webster cited nine runners-up that experienced significant increases in lookups, including “complicit,” which rival recently named its word of the year.

Another frequently searched-for word was “dotard,” an antiquated term for an elderly person with senility. That word captured the world's attention in September, when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un referred to President Trump as a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

Also on the list was “syzygy," defined as “the nearly straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies (such as the sun, moon, and Earth during a solar or lunar eclipse) in a gravitational system”; searches for the word were inspired by the total solar eclipse across much of the U.S. in August.

A sketch on the “Tonight” show was apparently responsible for another word on the list — “gyro,” as in the popular Greek sandwich. Searches for the word increased after host Jimmy Fallon and country singer Luke Bryan performed a song called "I Don't Know How to Pronounce Gyro" on a March episode of the show.

(For readers with the same affliction as Fallon and Bryan, Merriam-Webster advises that the word is pronounced either YEE-roh or ZHIHR-oh.)

The other words on the dictionary's top 10 list this year were “recuse,” “empathy,” “federalism,” “hurricane” and — inspired by an infamous moment at this year's Academy Awards — “gaffe.”