Why do we look up words in the dictionary? Sometimes it’s because we’ve never heard a word before and want to know what it means, but more often we have heard it before and already have a sense of what it means. What we want from the dictionary is confirmation, clarification, or a better understanding of a new context. Merriam-Webster.com keeps track of spikes in word lookups, and those spikes reveal what’s happening in the world, how people are talking about it, and what we’re noticing about what they’re saying.
Here are some recent lookup spikes on Merriam-Webster.com connected to the presidential primaries. Click the links to find out why the word spiked and what it means in the context of times.