The Quick 10: Merriam-Webster's Top Ten Words of 2010

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As a self-proclaimed word nerd, I love when the word of the year is announced. You may have seen the #1 word floating about the Web, but here's the rest of the list as determined by Merriam-Webster.com. They base their picks on words that have seen more traffic than in previous years; they can typically be tied to events that happened throughout the last 12 months.

1. Austerity: enforced or extreme economy. Merriam-Webster's editor-at-large, Peter Sokolowski, says this was the most unusual looked-up item this year, especially after the debt crisis in Europe reared its ugly head.

2. Pragmatic: relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters. It's no coincidence that this was looked up while candidates were stumping last fall.

3. Moratorium: a suspension of activity. If you're thinking BP oil spill, you're correct, but I bet the proposed foreclosure moratorium boosted searches as well.

4. Socialism: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. Editors believe this word was looked up because of media coverage of federal health care legislation.

5. Bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance. Several politicians and analysts have used this phrase this year, including fired CNN host Rick Sanchez who infamously referred to Jon Stewart as a bigot.

6. Doppelganger: a ghostly counterpart of a living person. This one likely spiked because of its repeated use in the popular T.V. show Vampire Diaries.

7. Shellacking: a decisive defeat. I thought perhaps people looked this up in reference to my performance in the mental_floss fantasy football league this year, but it seems to be centered on President Obama's reference to the beating the Democratic party took after midterm elections.

8. Ebullient: having or showing liveliness and enthusiasm. People wanted a definition of this effervescent word after the press used it to describe the rescued Chilean miners in October. And seriously, is there a better word to ascribe Edison Pena? Check out his rendition of "Suspicious Minds."

9. Dissident: disagreeing especially with an established religious or political system, organization or belief. This year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xialbo, was often called a dissident in the news because he didn't get to attend the ceremony due to his political prisoner status in China.

10. Furtive: done by stealth. Remember the guy who tried to bomb Times Square in the spring? Surveillance tapes caught him looking furtively as he fled the scene, according to the New York Times.

In 2007, "w00t" took Merriam Webster's top honor; it's no surprise that "bailout" was much-searched in 2008, and 2009's #1 spot went to "admonish."

Do you have any words you would have added to the list?

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December 20, 2010 - 12:06pm
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