The New York Times has an online feature that allows users to get dictionary definitions of words within feature articles. Just double-click a word, a question mark appears, click that, and you get a definition. Now they've crunched the numbers and revealed the 50 most-looked-up words of 2010 so far. You can see the top 20 above, but there's a catch -- one of those words was coined by a mischievous writer at the Times. Can you figure out which one it is?
From the article analyzing the results:
We all have blind spots in our vocabulary. Going through the list without benefit of context, I'll admit — somewhat reluctantly — that there were at least two words for which I couldn't formulate coherent definitions: "dÃ©marche" ("a line of action; move or countermove") and "cynosure" ("a person or thing that is a center of attention or interest"). I might have been able to puzzle them out in context, but standing alone, they stumped me.
For some reason "cynosure" (which can be pronounced with a short or long vowel sound in the first syllable) seems to be crosswired in my brain with the completely unrelated "sinecure" ("an office or position providing income but requiring little work").
Perhaps the Greek roots would help me figure out "cynosure"? No, not this time: it comes from the Greek for "dog's tail." So how did it acquire its current meaning? Apparently "the Dog's Tail" is what we now call the Little Dipper, the constellation that includes the North Star. Thus the "center of attention or interest."