Dictionaries' Word of the Year Choices Say a Lot About America Now

November 29th 2016

Laura Donovan

The Merriam-Webster dictionary wrote in a tweet Tuesday that "fascism" has been its most searched word in 2016, so far, and it wants its followers to do something about it. The site sent out a tweet letting its users know that it could possibly change things by looking up other words. This comes on the heels of other dictionary resources naming Word of the Year 2016 choices, too, with one noting that its word selection wasn't "to be celebrated." 

Fascism has been defined by Merriam-Webster as "a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition." 

This comes at a time when many critics of President-elect Donald Trump have pondered if he's a fascist based on his political platforms:

Coincidentally, Dictionary.com's selection for "Word of the Year 2016" on Tuesday was revealed as "xenophobia."

Dictionary.com wrote on its website Tuesday that the company based its Word of the Year choice on cultural themes over the past 12 months. It defined xenophobia as a "fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers." It also noted that it experienced a 938 percent increase in lookups for the word just after Brexit on June 24.

But the site wanted to emphasize that picking xenophobia as Word of the Year wasn't something to praise, despite its selection:

"What we do know is that from global events to political rhetoric, xenophobia was a recurring subject of discourse in 2016. Despite being chosen as the 2016 Word of the Year, xenophobia is not to be celebrated. Rather it’s a word to reflect upon deeply in light of the events of the recent past."

Twitter users noted that the word choices are very indicative of the current state of the world:

While the words xenophobia and post-truth from Oxford dictionary have been selected as the words of the year, there's still time to perhaps change the outcome for Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year to something more forward-looking and hopeful.