Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year

In the past, Merriam-Webster’s word of the year was the term that was looked up the most on, but this year, the dictionary publisher opened up the choice to the public in an online vote. The word selected by a five to one margin was truthiness, which was the American Dialect Society’s pick for WOTY in 2005.

Truthiness was coined by Stephen Colbert on his television show The Colbert Report in October 2005. (There are a handful of earlier uses, but Colbert probably independently coined it and his use of the term is the root of its current popularity.) Truthiness was defined by Colbert as:

truth that comes from the gut, not books.

The American Dialect Society gave it a more lexicographic treatment by defining it as:

the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.

Colbert commented on the word being chosen by Merriam-Webster, saying,

Though I’m no fan of reference books and their fact-based agendas, I am a fan of anyone who chooses to honor me, and what an honor. Truthiness now joins the lexicographical pantheon with words like “quash,” “merry,” “crumpet,” “the,” “xylophone,” “circuitous,” “others,” and others.

The other words in Merriam-Webster’s top ten for 2006 are:

  • google
  • decider
  • war
  • insurgent
  • terrorism
  • vendetta
  • sectarian
  • quagmire
  • corruption

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