Feminism was Merriam-Webster online dictionary's most looked up word for 2017
Curiosity over “feminism” surged amid #BeBoldforChange activities
“Feminism” had more people scratching their heads in 2017 than any other word, according to Merriam-Webster online dictionary.
The noun was looked up more than any other word, a 70 percent increase from the previous year, coinciding with a spike in news coverage related to women’s rights, the dictionary reported.
In a year when women were encouraged to #BeBoldforChange on International Women’s Day on March 8 and year round, it is perhaps not surprising the word gained renewed interest.
Defined as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and as “organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests,” the word first appeared in the dictionary in 1841. Its original definition was “the qualities of females.”
Lookups of “feminism” spiked following news coverage of international Women’s Marches in the United States in January 2017 and other related marches held around the country and internationally, and follow-up discussions regarding whether the march was feminist, and what kind of feminism was represented by organizers and attendees.
Searches of the word spiked in late February, after Trump counsellor Kellyanne Conway stated her views on feminism.
“It’s difficult for me to call myself a feminist in the classic sense - because it seems to be very anti-male and it certainly seems to be very pro-abortion,” she said. “I’m neither anti-male or pro-abortion. There’s an individual feminism, if you will. You make your own choices. I look at myself as a product of my choices, not a victim of my circumstances. And to me, that’s what conservative feminism is all about.”
Additionally, news stories revealing sexual assault and harassment in the workplace shared on social media hashtagged #MeToo also coincided with an increased number of searches for the word.
“No one word can ever encapsulate all the news, events, or stories of a given year - particularly a year with so much news and so many stories,” Merriam-Webster said. “But when a single word is looked up in great volume, and also stands out as one associated with several different important stories, we can learn something about ourselves through the prism of vocabulary. There is an ongoing national conversation, and Merriam-Webster has a front-row seat.”
This year, the campaign theme for International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress, a strong call for collective action to establish gender inclusivity around the world.
Understanding the meaning of the word feminism is a first step. Follow up by sharing your events and photographs on the IWD website.