Merriam-Webster defines surreal as “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream,” with its synonyms being unbelievable and fantastic.
The dictionary publisher established their choice due to the high volume of lookups “surreal” received in 2016.
The word spiked after the Brussels terror attacks in March, the coup attempt in Turkey, the terrorist attack in Nice, and the U.S. election in November, according to the site.
Merriam-Webster editor at large Peter Sokolowski noted in a press release how unusual it was that the word had been so frequently searched.
“Historically, surreal has been one of the words most searched after tragedy, most notably in the days following 9/11, but it was associated with a wide variety of stories this year,” he said.
“Surreal” was an even more surprising winner for Word of the Year when you consider that both “puppy,” “flummadiddle,” and “fascism” were all trending this month. “Fascism” was leading the pack for a while, but in an effort to, you know, not have “fascism” be the Word of the Year, the folks at Merriam-Webster sent out a call to arms to ask people to search literally anything else.
But don’t worry: this election was not rigged. Merriam-Webster assured us all weeks ago that they’d select a winner appropriately.
“Our Word of the Year cannot be rigged. We encourage people to look up new words at all times, particularly if those words are strange 19th-century Americanisms or words for adorable doll-like creatures, but our Word of the Year is based on year-over-year increase in lookups,” they said on their site. “We look for a word which got a high number of lookups and increased dramatically in popularity when compared to previous years.”