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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year Is ... Science

Stephanie Pappas
Published: December 4, 2013

Merriam-Webster has declared science its 2013 Word of the Year, based on the number of people looking up the word.

While the Oxford University Press honored "selfies" as its 2013 Word of the Year, celebrating those quickly snapped self-portraits, Merriam-Webster is taking a more academic approach to its annual linguistic spotlight.  

The dictionary has declared "science" its 2013 Word of the Year. The honor is based on increased interest as measured by the number of people looking up a word over time. If you haven't looked it up online, here's how Merriam-Webster defines science: "knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation."

Science, according to Merriam-Webster Editor-at-Large Peter Sokolowski, is the word behind the news in 2013.

"It is a word that is connected to broad cultural dichotomies: observation and intuition, evidence and tradition," Sokolowski said in a statement. "A wide variety of discussions centered on science this year, from climate change to educational policy. We saw heated debates about 'phony' science, or whether science held all the answers."

The result, he said, was a 176 percent increase in lookups of the word "science" in 2013 compared with 2012.

The second-most fascinating word of 2013 had a scientific bent as well, Merriam-Webster announced. That word was "cognitive," defined by the dictionary as "of, relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (as thinking, reasoning, or remembering)."

Cognitive may have gotten a boost from increasing awareness of traumatic brain injury in the National Football League, National Hockey League, and among military veterans, according to Merriam-Webster.

"People are not only interested in knowing more about how injuries affect cognitive function, but also how age and other factors affect cognitive function and development," Sokolowski said.

Here is the full list of Merriam-Webster's Top 10 Words of the Year:

  1. science
  2. cognitive
  3. rapport
  4. communication
  5. niche
  6. ethic
  7. paradox
  8. visceral
  9. integrity
  10. metaphor

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