Merriam-Webster has announced that “culture” is the English dictionary’s word of the year for 2014.
The company selects its word of the year based on number of online searches, and overall presence in the media, among other criteria.
The definition of “culture,” according to Merriam-Webster, is the “beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time.”
Among the other most notable words of the year included “feminism,” insidious,” “innovation,” “morbidity,” “autonomy,” “surreptitious,” “nostalgia” and “je ne sais quoi.” The Merriam-Webster 2013 word of the year was “science.” “Capitalism” and “socialism” shared top honors in 2012.
“Culture” was not connected with any single event in 2014, but rather dominated the news headlines on a consistent basis due to its many uses. Popular topics this year included “company culture,” “rape culture” and “celebrity culture.”
Online searches for the word “feminism” remained strong throughout the course of 2014, according to company leaders. “Feminism” was used in correlation with the Gamergate controversy and the Hobby Lobby decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. When Time Magazine released its annual list of the “100 Most Influential People” – featuring Pharrell Williams, Miley Cyrus and Beyonce – the word saw another major spike in online traffic.
Along with its main publication, Merriam-Webster has published dictionaries of Spanish/English, slang, sports terms, medical terms, proper names, biography, geography, English usage and synonyms. Non-dictionary publications available around the world are Encyclopedia of World Religions Collegiate Thesaurus, Encyclopedia of Literature, Manual for Writers and Editors, Secretarial Handbook and Collegiate Encyclopedia.
Merriam-Webster was created by researcher Noah Webster in 1828 as a way to expand the conversation about language among cultures around the world. In his quest for greater knowledge, he learned a total of 26 languages, including English, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Aramaic, Hebrew, Russian, Welsh, Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Greek, German and Gothic.