'Justice' Prevails as Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year

It was relevant in most conversations in the past year.
IMAGE Freepik

While it does not always seem the case, justice seems to have prevailed—at least as word of the year, as recognized by Merriam-Webster.

After a year of news cycles ridden with government hearings and investigations, especially in the US, the American publishing company found "justice" to be relevant in conversations of most.

“The concept of justice was at the center of many of our national debates in the past year: racial justice, social justice, criminal justice, economic justice,” the company said in a statement. “In any conversation about these topics, the question of just what exactly we mean when we use the term justice is relevant, and part of the discussion.”

The word was looked up in the company’s website 74 percent more times this year than in 2017. It beat out “nationalism” and “pansexual”, which emerged as the next two most searched words on the website.

In a video released on their website, Merriam-Webster Editor at Large Peter Sokolowski said news stories often drive lookups of a certain word. Last year, the company named “feminism” as the word of the year following the year-long media coverage of the “Women’s March” movement and the #MeToo campaign. The annual recognition is determined by the increase in searches and lookup data.  

Still, not all of the most-searched words were inherently political, as news and pop culture have also had their fair share of contributions. For example, the word “pansexual” found an increase in searches this year after American singer Janelle Monae said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine that she identified as such. “Epiphany” also figured on the list after K-Pop group BTS featured the word in a trailer for its song in August. 


And who can forget the “laurel”, which emerged in the pop culture conversation after a video of its pronunciation went viral in May? It ended up as one of the most searched words this year. "Lodestar", "feckless", "pissant", "respect", "maverick," and "excelsior," completed the list.

Other publishing companies also released their own Word of the Year: Oxford Dictionary went with "toxic," while said theirs was "misinformation." Seen from a lexicographers' point of view, 2018 seems to have really been a tumultuous year.

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Elyssa Christine Lopez
Elyssa Christine Lopez is a staff writer of Esquire. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz
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