Quid Pro Quo, Snitty Among Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year

Posted on December 10, 2019

Merriam-Webster has released its Word of the Year and words of the year for 2019. The words on the list include quid pro quo, impeach, crawdad, egregious, clemency, the, snitty, tergiversation, camp and exculpate. You can view the list and the editor's reasons for inclusion at merriam-webster.com.

The surprising choice for word of the year is they. Merriam-Webster says the shifting use of the personal pronoun has "been the subject of increasing study and commentary in recent years." The dictionary publisher also says, "Lookups for they increased by 313% in 2019 over the previous year."

Merriam-Webster's word of the year choices all show a large increase in lookups. This is most frequently due to a story that it is in the news. Lookups for several of the top words this year spiked because of interest in President Trump's political scandals. Two of the top words - quid pro quo and impeach - are directly related the recent Ukraine investigation that led the Democrats to impeach President Trump. Lookups for exculpate spiked 23,000% on Merriam-Webster's site after Robert Mueller used the word in his testimony before members of the House of Representatives.

The word crawdad saw a large spike in searches after author Delia Owens topped the New York Times bestseller list for her novel, Where the Crawdads Sing. She was also interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning.

Media news stories with a large following can also cause a sustained burst in lookups at Merriam-Webster. Egregious is tied to the Boeing 737 Max stories and clemency is tied to the grant of clemency for Cyntoia Brown by the governor of Tennessee.

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