Top Ten Words of the Year for 2010

‘Austerity,’ defined as “enforced or extreme economy” was the topmost word of the year. Lookups for austerity peaked dramatically several times throughout the year, as people’s attention was drawn to global economic conditions and the debt crises in Europe.

But lookups also remained strong throughout the year, reflecting widespread use of the word in many contexts. 

Merriam-Webster Inc., America’s leading language reference publisher, has announced the Top Ten Words of the Year for 2010.

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This profile of America’s mood and interests is determined by the volume of user lookups at in response to current events and conditions.

“Austerity clearly resonates with many people,” said Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large at Merriam-Webster, who monitors online dictionary searches. 

“We often hear it used in the context of government measures, but we also apply it to our own personal finances and what is sometimes called the new normal.”

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Number two on the list is pragmatic, a word that rose steadily in searches this year, both during the election season and the political negotiations that followed.

“In a way, the popularity of pragmatic is reminiscent of 2005, when integrity was the most frequently looked-up word,” said John M. Morse, president and publisher of Merriam-Webster.

“In both cases, I think the word described a quality that people value highly, want to understand fully, and are looking for in their leaders.”

Merriam-Webster’s Top 10 Words of the Year for 2010 are:

  1. austerity
  2. pragmatic
  3. moratorium
  4. socialism
  5. bigot
  6. doppelganger
  7. shellacking
  8. ebullient
  9. dissident
  10. furtive

The Top 10 Words list was released Monday, Dec. 20.

Photo courtesy: Merriam-Webster Inc.

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Rakesh Raman