The word perfectly encapsulates 2016.
Merriam-Webster announced that “surreal” is its Word of the Year for 2016. The American publishing company said they based their decision on two simple factors; the word had a “high volume of lookups” and a “significant year-over-year increase in lookups” on Merrian-Webster.com.
Defined as “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream”, “surreal” saw a spike in look-ups after the Brussels attacks, the Bastille Day massacre in Nice and the attempted coup in Turkey. However the largest spike in searches occurred after the United States presidential election in November.
Peter Sokolowski, the editor at large for Merriam-Webster, said of “surreal”, “it was one of the most looked-up words after 9/11 and other tragedies: the Newtown shootings, the Boston Marathon bombing and the suicide of Robin Williams. We do know this word is associated with a kind of shock, and the surprise that I think a lot of people felt the day after the election.”
The word “deplorable” also spiked after Clinton used the adjective as a noun to describe what she said were great swaths of Trump’s supporters, and searches for “revenant” also shot up thanks to the success of The Revenant.
Merriam-Webster’s is the third of four major Word of the Year selections, all of which so far have reflected the pandemonium of 2016. Oxford chose “post-truth” to sum up “a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse”. Dictionary.com chose “xenophobia” because there were so many fears raised about so many “others”. The American Dialect Society who began the tradition won’t make their decision till January.