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Austerity: The TOP word of the year

Last updated on: December 22, 2010 11:06 IST

Austerity: The TOP word of the year

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'Austerity' was the most-searched-for term in 2010, and has been named Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year.

According to Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster's editor at large, 'austerity' is not only news driven but a word that clearly is sort of in the ether. Part of the zeitgeist of this past year is the austerity measures that governments are taking and also that individuals are having to make."

John Morse, president of the Massachusetts-based dictionary, said the search for the word's definition has been parallel to news coverage of the worldwide financial crisis that has seen protests and riots in Greece, Spain and Britain.

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Image: Images shown only for illustrative purposes

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TOP 10 words of the year

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Pragmatic: Relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters; practical as opposed to idealistic

The word 'pragmatic' was looked-up a number of times after US midterm elections.





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Moratorium: A legally authorised period of delay in the performance of a legal obligation or the payment of a debt



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Socialism: Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. A stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

Editors at Merriam-Webster believe that 'socialism' was searched because of coverage around financial bailouts and Democratic-backed health care legislation in the US.



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Bigot: A person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

Allan Metcalf, an English professor at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois, said the list of words shows how the country is evolving.

"Around 20 to 30 years ago, everyone would know what 'socialism' or 'bigot' was. That fact that they have to be looked up says something about us," he said.



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Doppelganger: A ghostly counterpart of a living person

Peter Sokolowski said 'doppelganger' saw a jump in searches after George Stephanopoulos of US TV show Good Morning America called Elizabeth Gilbert -- author of Eat, Pray, Love -- 'Julia Roberts' doppelganger'.



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Shellacking: A decisive defeat

Similarly, although searches for the word 'shellacking' went up after President Barack Obama said he and his party took 'a shellacking' from voters in midterm election, Jenna Portier, an English instructor at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, said the word is very common in southern Louisiana.



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Ebullient: Characterised by ebullience; having or showing liveliness and enthusiasm

A number of media outlets used 'ebullient' to describe events around the rescue of the Chilean miners in October.



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Dissident: Disagreeing, especially with an established religious or political system, organization, or belief

The word gained prominence towards the end of the year following the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize for jailed Chinese activist Liu Xialbo. Beijing has branded Xialbo as a dissident

 



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Furtive: Expressive of stealth; sly. Marked by quiet and caution and secrecy; taking pains to avoid being observed

 



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