The Top 10 Words of 2010

Dictionary by greeblie.The vocabulary gurus at Merriam-Webster have just announced their Top Ten Words of the Year for 2010. The list, based on the volume of actual user lookups at, is known for capturing our interests and summarizing the current events in any given year.

At the top of this year’s listing is “austerity,” a noun meaning “enforced or extreme economy.” Makes sense, considering the global economy—specifically the European debt crisis—was on our minds a lot these past 12 months.

Other terms that made the list can also be tied to significant news events of the year: “Moratorium” was looked up frequently due to its use by President Obama in regards to the Gulf oil spill this spring. “Dissident” made the list because so many people looked it up after it was used to describe this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo. And “ebullient” sparked a great deal of interest when it was used to describe one of the rescued Chilean miners this fall.

Here are the 10 most looked-up words on this year:

  1. austerity (noun): enforced or extreme economy
  2. pragmatic (adjective): officious; practical as opposed to idealistic
  3. moratorium (noun): a legally authorized period of delay; a suspension of an activity
  4. socialism (noun): any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
  5. bigot (noun): a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance
  6. doppelganger (noun): someone who looks like someone else; someone’s “double.”
  7. shellacking (noun): a decisive defeat
  8. ebullient (adjective): showing liveliness and enthusiasm
  9. dissident (noun): someone who strongly and publicly disagrees with and criticizes the government
  10. furtive (adjective): done by stealth; surreptitious

From this list, you’d surmise that 2010 was a serious and somewhat depressing year. Here’s hoping that 2011’s list is made up of some more lighthearted and hopeful terms.

Happy New Year!