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In 2001, after the 9/11 terror attacks, the Springfield, Massachusetts-based company noticed plenty of spikes in word lookups.The most enduring spike was for “surreal,” pointing to a broader meaning and greater usage, Sokolowski said.Right after 9/11, words that included "rubble" and "triage" spiked, he said.A couple days after that, more political words took over in relation to the tragedy, including "jingoism" and "terrorism.""But then we finally hit 'surreal,' so we had a concrete response, a political response and finally a philosophical response," Sokolowski said.The most enduring spike was for "surreal," pointing to a broader meaning and greater usage, Sokolowski said."We noticed the same thing after the Newtown shootings, after the Boston Marathon bombings, after Robin Williams' suicide," he said."Surreal has become this sort of word that people seek in moments of great shock and tragedy."Word folk like Sokolowski can't pinpoint exactly why people look words up online, but they know it's not only to check spellings or definitions.
Irony mixed with the surreal for yet another bump after the March death of Garry Shandling."That's what connects all these tragic events."Other words that made Merriam-Webster's Top due to significant spikes in lookups: BIGLY: Yes, it's a word but a rare and sometimes archaic form of "big," dating to around 1400, Sokolowski said.It made its way into the collective mind thanks to Trump, who was fond of using "big league" as an adverb but making it sound like bigly. Try something in between: “surreal,” which is US dictionary Merriam-Webster's word of the year.Meaning “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream,” or “unbelievable, fantastic,” the word joins Oxford's “post-truth” and Dictionary.com's “xenophobia” as the year's top choices.