Austerity measures announced by governments across Europe this year sparked a surge in civil unrest, and a surge in people trying to find out exactly what the word means. Merriam-Webster says that, based on search trends, the noun—meaning "enforced or extreme economy"—is its word of 2010. AP reports that the word was searched for on the dictionary's free online tool more than a quarter of a million times.
The runners-up, all of which the dictionary has traced back to news stories, include "pragmatic," "moratorium," "socialism," and "bigot." Searches for "doppelganger" spiked after George Stephanopoulos called Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert "Julia Roberts' doppelganger" on Good Morning America, and there were thousands of searches for "shellacking" after President Obama used the word to describe how his party fared in the midterm elections. Click for the complete list of runners-up.