Merriam-Webster Declares ‘Feminism’ as the Word of the Year for 2017

This Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, photo taken in New York shows the word feminism listed in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster has revealed “feminism” as its word of the year for 2017 on Tuesday, Dec. 12. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)
AP/Peter Morgan

The dictionary Merriam-Webster is declaring “feminism” as its word of the year for 2017, nominating the word “complicit” as its runner-up.

Lexicographer Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large, told the Associated Press that the company decided on the word “feminism” after online searches for the term spiked by 70 percent from the previous year.

The increase in online searches for the word followed major news events, from the Women’s March on Washington in January to the more recent “Me Too” movement against sexual harassment that caused the downfall of Harvey Weinstein and many other high-profile figures in media, politics, and entertainment.

Kellyanne Conway also caused a spike in curiosity about the word’s origins after she explained how she could be a feminist as a conservative.

“There’s an individual feminism, if you will, that you make your own choices … I look at myself as a product of my choices, not a victim of my circumstances. And to me, that’s what conservative feminism is all about,” she said in front of an audience at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference in February.

Searches for the term also soared when Hulu released the television show The Handmaid’s Tale and when the movie Wonder Woman became a hit at the box office.

The word “feminism” has made Merriam-Webster’s top ten lists for years, although the origins of the word itself date back hundreds of years.

Feminism’s roots come from the Latin terms for “woman” and “female,” both dating back to the 14th century. It was not until 1841 when Noah Webster, the founder of Merriam-Webster, created the first dictionary reference for “feminism.”

Merriam-Webster defines the current meaning of feminism as the “theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activities on behalf of women’s rights and interests.”

The dictionary named the word “complicit” as the runner-up, and eight other terms to round out the top ten words of 2017, including “syzygy,” federalism,” and “gaffe.”

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