This may or may not come as a surprise: Merriam-Webster's word of the year for 2017 is "feminism." Yes, it's been a big year or two or 100 for the word. In 2017, lookups for feminism increased 70% over 2016 on Merriam-Webster.com and spiked several times after key events, lexicographer Peter Sokolowski, the company's editor at large, told the AP ahead of Tuesday's annual word reveal. There was the Women's March on Washington in January, along with sister demonstrations around the globe. The "Me Too" movement rose out of Harvey Weinstein's dust, and other "silence breakers" brought down rich and famous men of the media, politics, and entertainment worlds.
"The word feminism was being used in a kind of general way," Sokolowski says. "The feminism of this big protest, but it was also used in a kind of specific way: What does it mean to be a feminist in 2017? Those kinds of questions are the kinds of things, I think, that send people to the dictionary." The first dictionary reference came from the company's founder, Noah Webster, in 1841, when it was defined as "the qualities of females." Today, Merriam-Webster defines 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." (Last year's winner was a synonym for "unbelievable.")