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Merriam-Webster’s top looked up words of the year

(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Have you ever had to look up a word just to understand its meaning?

Most likely yes — if not you are a probably a genius.

Well, Merriam-Webster dove deep and found the top ten most looked up words in 2017.

While most words in the list have something to do with politics, there are a few words that are straight out of nowhere.

1. Feminism

  • “The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.”

The top word of the year honors belongs to feminism.

Throughout the year, it was a commonly searched word. The biggest spikes of the searches were found to be around big events like the Women’s March in Washington D.C. It also spiked for entertainment reasons, like Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Wonder Women.

The word has continued to see an increase in lookups following the numerous accounts of sexual assualt and harassment that have brought up in the news.

2. Complicit

  • “Helping to commit a crime or do wrong in some way.” It comes from the Latin word meaning “to fold together.”

Coming in at second, is the word complicit.

It was first connected to the Trump Administration’s first year in office — regarding James Comey and Russia — but got its biggest spikes — mainly due to Trump’s daughter Ivanka — during Saturday Night Live and Ivanka Trump’s interview with Gayle King.

3. Recuse

  • “To disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case” and “to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest.”

Recuse’s spike can be credited to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He used the word in January when talking about Hilary Clinton’s potential investigation. It trended up again in March when members of Congress asked for Sessions to remove himself from investigations surrounding the Russians and Trump’s cabinet/administration.

4. Empathy

  • “The ability to share another person’s feelings.”

In January, Asghar Farhadi, an Iranian director who won an Academy Award for best foreign language film “The Saleman,” would not come to the U.S. In a protest of the travel ban, he released a statement asking for empathy.

5. Dotard

  • “A person in his or her dotage” (dotage is “a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness”)

Dotard found its way to the list after North Korean president Kim Jong Un called Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard” in September.

6. Syzygy

  • “The nearly straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies (such as the sun, moon, and earth during a solar or lunar eclipse) in a gravitational system.”

We can thank celestial events for the spike in the word syzygy. In August, it first spiked on the day of the solar eclipse. It also saw a smaller spike during the supermoon in December.

7. Gyro

  • “A sandwich especially of lamb and beef, tomato, onion, and yogurt sauce on pita bread.”

Jimmy Fallon and Luke Bryan are the two behind the spike of the word gyro. In a March sketch on the Tonight Show, the two order the tasty sandwiches and finished it off with a song at the end, title “I Don’t Know How to Pronounce Gyro.”

8. Federalism  

  • “The distribution of power in an organization (such as a government) between a central authority and the constituent units.”

Federalism saw an almost 500 percent increase from 2016 thanks to Congress and the Graham-Cassidy bill. Lindsey Graham used the word when talking about what the bill would stop if it was passed.

9. Hurricane

  • “A tropical cyclone with winds of 74 miles (119 kilometers) per hour or greater that occurs especially in the western Atlantic, that is usually accompanied by rain, thunder, and lightning, and that sometimes moves into temperate latitudes.”

September brought the spike of the word hurricane in 2017. Due in part to the weather events that battered the southeastern U.S. and the Caribbean, the word spike during and after the hurricanes hit. Merriam-Webster believed that the word was looked up to gain more detailed information.

10. Gaffe

  • “A noticeable mistake.”

The 2017 Academy Awards gave us the word gaffe thanks to a big mixup onstage. After the movie “La La Land” was named Best Picture and the cast was onstage celebrating, something wasn’t right.

Minutes later, it was announced that the movie “Moonlight” had actually won the award and the card reader had mistakenly said the wrong name on the card.

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