Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right Merriam-Webster selects "surreal" as the word of the year
News / Weird & Wonderful

Merriam-Webster selects "surreal" as the word of the year

Regardless of one's feelings concerning our latest political election, our revolutionized TV viewing habits (thank you, Netflix) and the merits of Hamilton, most Americans will likely agree that 2016 will go down as one of the strangest and most bizarre years in history.

Formalizing that very view, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, one of the most consulted across the web, officially selected "surreal" as its word of the year. Shocking.

Tracking words that are looked up "day-in and day-out" and terms whose searches "spike because of news events, politics, pop culture or sports," the site attempts to analyze what sort of events and happenings send Americans running to the dictionary—both to make sense of those exact scenarios and to find ways to orally describe their own feelings towards them. 

This year, the word "surreal" "was looked up significantly more frequently than it was in previous years," explains the site in the announcement. Specifically, the word was used back in March when news outlets covered the Brussels terror attack and in July in descriptions of the coup attempt in Turkey and the terrorist attack in Nice. But "the largest spike in lookups [occurred] following the US election in November." This, indeed, might be the least surprising bit of information we heard the entire year.

The word "surreal" is a relatively new one: first appearing in the English language in the 1930s, the term derives from "surrealism," the artistic movement of the early 1900s that "attempted to depict the unconscious mind in dreamlike ways, as 'above' or 'beyond' reality."

Defining the adjective as "marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream," the dictionary includes "unbelievable" and "fantastic" as synonyms, a fact that, strangely, brings us hope: Although 2016 was undoubtedly and incredibly strange... Could it perhaps lead to potentially "fantastic" and "unbelievable" results? Cheers to hoping and to a positively surreal 2017.

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