'Surreal' is Merriam Webster's word of the year for 2016

Surreal: “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.”
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Surreal: "marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.”

This is Merriam-Webster's word of the year for 2016. So why did the dictionary choose "surreal," a word many of us associate with artists like Salvador Dali?

Because people looked up the word significantly more frequently in 2016 compared to previous years, and there were multiple occasions throughout the year that this word was "the one clearly driving people to their dictionary," Merriam-Webster said.

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster, goes into more detail about how the word of the year is chosen in this video.

"Our word of the year is one that people came back to over and over again in response to different events, and it gives us a look at 2016 according to what sent us to the dictionary," Sokolowski explains.

Spiked by major events

Surreal was used and looked up often in 2016 after major events like Prince's death, the shooting at Pulse night club in Orlando, and the Brexit vote, Merriam Webster says.

But there were a few times when the word really spiked in popularity: during coverage of the Brussels terror attacks in March, and in July, after the coup attempt in Turkey and the terrorist attack in Nice.

Finally, the largest spike came in November, after Donald Trump won the U.S. election.

"When we don’t believe or don’t want to believe what is real, we need a word for what seems 'above' or 'beyond' reality. Surreal is such a word," Merriam-Webster said.

Other popular words in 2016

These are the other nine words that Merriam-Webster says people looked up the most his year:

  • Revenant
  • Icon
  • In Omnia Paratus
  • Bigly
  • Deplorable
  • Irregardless
  • Assumpsit
  • Faute de Mieux
  • Feckless

Other publications have already named their word of the year. Oxford Dictionary picked "post-truth" for its connection to the presidential election, while Dictionary.com chose "xenophobia" for its tie to big news stories this year like police shootings, Syria’s refugee crisis, the Brexit vote, transsexual rights, and the presidential election.

Last year, Merriam Webster named a suffix as its word of the year, because seven of the top words ended in "ism."

Next Up

Jaden McDaniels

Wolves lose to Magic on Cole Anthony's buzzer-beater

The Wolves blew a 20-point lead as the Magic defeated the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

J.A. Happ

Twins sign veteran J.A. Happ to add to the rotation

The left-hander will get a one-year, $8 million deal from the Twins.

storm the capitol rally st. paul minnesota state capitol

BCA finds 'no criminal wrongdoing' among those at 'Storm the Capitol' rally

Inflammatory comments were made by speakers, but no charges will be brought.

Screen Shot 2021-01-18 at 12.27.04 PM

Man's vehicles crushed by hit-and-run driver weren't fully insured

The goal is to raise $25,000 to help the south Minneapolis resident.

Joe Biden

Key points from Joe Biden's first speech as POTUS

The 46th president called for unity at a time America is facing huge challenges.

coronavirus, covid-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Wednesday, January 20

The 111 ICU patients is the fewest in Minnesota since there were 109 COVID patients in intensive care on Oct. 1.

Klobuchar

Here's what Amy Klobuchar said at Joe Biden's inauguration

The Minnesota senator was one of the leader organizers of the inauguration.

covid-19, vaccine

All of this week's COVID vaccine pilot program appointments are filled

Nearly 6,000 Minnesotans who are 65 and older registered for appointments between noon Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

Lane kueng thao chauvin

Osterholm affidavit ahead of George Floyd trial warns of COVID worsening in March

Prosecutors want to delay the Chauvin trial due to a public health threat.

Related

If 2016 was a movie, it would be a horror flick – here's the trailer

Movie trailer voice: "In a year marked by shocking events and the death of beloved celebrities ... "

If 2016 was a movie, it would be a horror flick – here's the trailer

Movie trailer voice: "In a year marked by shocking events and the death of beloved celebrities ... "

Dictionary.com's Word of the Year is 'complicit'

So who does it say has been complicit this year?

Mall of America will host a casting call for a Norwegian reality TV show

Get out of the country AND be on the next season of an award-winning reality show.

Two popular haunted houses in St. Paul are probably not opening this year

These haunted houses can't open unless they are up to city code.

The New York Times says Minneapolis should be on your list of places to visit this year

Minneapolis came in at No. 23 on the list, right behind the Great Barrier Reef.