Word of the Year

WORD OF THE YEAR….Via TalkLeft, here are Merriam-Webster’s top ten words of the year:

  1. blog

  2. incumbent

  3. electoral

  4. insurgent

  5. hurricane

  6. cicada

  7. peloton

  8. partisan

  9. sovereignty

  10. defenestration

These are apparently the words that were most often looked up on Merriam-Webster’s website during (the first 11 months of) 2004, and they all make sense except for one: defenestration. What caused the sudden interest? Was there an outbreak of window leaping that I missed during the year?

And I know that there were lots of big hurricanes this year, but did lots of people really have to look up the word to see what it meant? I sure hope those were mostly schoolchildren doing the looking.

UPDATE: In comments, Peter Sokolowski of Merriam-Webster answers our questions:

‘Defenestration’ came from a contest Merriam held earlier this year on the Web site, asking users for their favorite word. ‘Defenestration’ won and was subsequently looked up many thousands of times, hence its odd presence in the top 10.

The other words all reflect what people are thinking and talking about. You are correct that international hits are also registered, but my guess is that folks wanted the definition of ‘hurricane’ as it related to specific wind speeds.

“Defenestration” won a contest for favorite word? Well waddaya know….