Merriam-Webster’s word of the year perfectly describes 2016

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“Surreal” has beaten “fascism” to become Merriam-Webster’s 2016 word of the year.

Defined by the dictionary as “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream,” “surreal” is a relatively new word in English, having been first included in the dictionary in 1967.

But never before have so many people felt compelled to look it up on their dictionary.

“Spikes of interest in a word are usually triggered by a single event,” said Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster. “So what’s truly remarkable this year about ‘surreal’ is that so many different stories led people to look it up.

“Historically, ‘surreal’ has been one of the words most searched after tragedy, most notably in the days following 9/11. But it was associated with a wide variety of stories this year.”

Dramatic events such as the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Nice and the attempted coup in Turkey led to a spike in numbers looking up the word for a longer periods of time than previous years.

But the largest spike was after the U.S. election in November.

Surreal is often looked up spontaneously in moments of both tragedy and surprise, whether or not it is used in speech or writing. This is not surprising: we often search for just the right word to help us bring order to abstract thoughts, emotions, or reactions. ‘Surreal’ seems to be, for 2016, such a word,” said Merriam-Webster:

Until Nov. 29, “fascism” was Merriam-Webster’s most-looked-up word of the year.

The folks behind the dictionary’s Twitter account encouraged people to look up other words.

Alas, “surreal” prevailed.

Read more about popular words:

Hillary Clinton’s top 10 words 

1. systemic

2. children

3. seller

4. Libyans

5. Europeans

6. recommend

7. out-of-pocket

8. elsewhere

9. LGBT

10. AIG

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Ted Cruz’s top 10 words 

1. utterly

2. cronyism

3. ration

4. Rubio-Schumer

5. objective

6. Jihad

7. sessions

8. distract

9. suspend

10. patrol

(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

John Kasich’s top 10 words

1. blue-collar

2. surplus

3. formula

4. incumbent

5. architect

6. balanced

7. budget

8. miner

9. discipline

10. Pentagon

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Marco Rubio’s top 10 words

1. apocalyptic

2. agent

3. Guantanamo

4. sophisticated

5. modernize

6. vat

7. grandfather

8. Moammar

9. paycheck

10. killer

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Bernie Sanders’ top 10 words

1. handful

2. crumble

3. speculation

4. tuition-free

5. substantially

6. cease-fire

7. one-tenth

8. U.K.

9. Cayman Islands

10. buck

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Donald Trump’s top 10 words

1. eminent

2. tremendous

3. sudden

4. scholar

5. inversion

6. Atlantic

7. businessman

8. nasty

9. beautiful

10. domain

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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