clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2014's biggest stories made us pick up the dictionary

New, 9 comments

Ebola, sociopath, and asphyxiation were some of the trending words of a dark and depressing year

Horia Varlan / Flickr

One of the last summaries of 2014 to be posted has arrived from the guys behind Dictionary.com, who have picked out the hottest trending words of the past year. Replacing the selfie, cronut, and twerk of 2013 are terms like misogynistic, sociopath, and asphyxiation, which reflects a stark change in mood from the previous rankings. The impetus for looking up those definitions in 2014 came from a series of tragic events in the US, including a murder spree at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the death of Eric Garner after being subjected to a chokehold by police. On a more positive note, the increased scrutiny of the Washington NFL team's nickname led to more people finding out exactly what "redskin" means, and at least some of the exposure for misogyny stems from the debate around sexism in video games that made front-page news this year.

Entertainment has also driven people to search for more meaning in their lives, with Maleficent, Divergent, and Interstellar all generating a bump in interest. A rise in searches for "elementary" has been attributed to "a case of Sherlock fever" generated by the successful BBC mini-series, while the Eaten Alive documentary from the Discovery Channel sparked interest in the definition of "anaconda." From the tech sphere, Google Now, which responds to the prompt "OK Google," and the Tinder matchmaking app have been credited with making "OK" and "Tinder" more popular, though lookups for the meaning of "Facebook" have fallen off dramatically.