The dictionary company Merriam-Webster announced that “surreal” was its word of the year for 2016. The adjective is defined by the company as something that has been “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.”
In a statement, the company said “surreal” is “often looked up spontaneously in moments of both tragedy and surprise, whether or not it is used in speech or writing.”
There were three distinct events this past year that led to the word’s popularity in searches, according to Merriam-Webster: the Brussels terror attacks in March, the failed coup in Turkey in July, and the U.S. presidential election in November.
The company said the word of the year was not surprising to them.
“We often search for just the right word to help us bring order to abstract thoughts, emotions, or reactions,” Merriam-Webster said in a statement. “Surreal seems to be, for 2016, such a word.”
Other words that saw unusual spikes in interest this year with Merriam-Webster were: “Revenant,” “icon,” “In Omnia Paratus,” “bigly,” “deplorable,” “irregardless,” “assumpsit,” “Faute de Mieux,” and “feckless.”
Merriam-Webster’s word of the year selection joins the Oxford Dictionaries’ “post-truth,” and dictionary.com’s “xenophobia,” reflecting the uncertainty and divisiveness of the year all over the world.
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