Why Merriam-Webster Picked ‘Feminism’ as Its 2017 Word of the Year

December 12, 2017, 3:52 PM UTC

The year 2017 began with the Women’s March on Washington, and ended with a #MeToo movement that saw thousands women empowered to speak up about sexual harassment. It is with these cultural shifts in mind that Merriam-Webster on Tuesday declared “feminism” its 2017 Word of the Year.

The accolade is given each year to a word looked up on Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary disproportionately more than in previous years. Feminism beat out contenders such as dotard, complicit, recuse and empathy for the 2017 top spot.

“No one word can ever encapsulate all the news, events, or stories of a given year,” Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster, said in a statement. “But when we look back at the past 12 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.”

Feminism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests.”

Searches for the word spiked during the Women;s March on Washington D.C., the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Other events that had an impact on searches included when Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said she didn’t consider herself a feminist. Merriam-Webster said interest in the blockbuster movie Wonder Woman and the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale also increased searches for the term.


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