Dictionary firm picks 'ism' as its word of the year

The small but powerful suffix "ism" has been chosen as word of the year by Merriam-Webster, the US company that publishes reference books, especially dictionaries.

But it's not just any ism. The top isms referenced on the company's website this year are socialism, fascism, racism, feminism, communism, capitalism and terrorism.

"We had a lot on our minds this year," said Peter Sokolowski, the company's editor-at-large. "It's a serious year. These are words of ideas and practices. We're educating ourselves."

The company tracks news events to link referrals to real life. Its researchers also assess data in a way that filters out common words frequently looked up year after year when making their top annual choices.

Referrals to fascism corresponded to the release of video footage last month showing a white police officer shooting a black teenager in Chicago, and the criminal charges that followed.

Merriam-Webster also saw a stronger correlation in heavy traffic on its site for this word and "fascist" in Republican Donald Trump's presidential campaign, including reports on his anti-Islam rhetoric.

Sokolowski said the isms often "collide", rivaling each other in popularity.

"Fascism we more closely associate as the response to various acts of terrorism. After the attacks in Paris and the attacks in Colorado Springs and San Bernardino, and because of Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims, we then see the word 'fascism' spike," he said.

The word racism also attracted high traffic all year but had two noticeable peaks-one after church shootings in South Carolina and another amid protests at the University of Missouri.

Other isms attracting hits at Merriam-Webster.com this year were professionalism, masochism, federalism, pragmatism, existentialism, hedonism and Marxism.

Words that sent people to the site in high numbers included marriage, hypocrite, respect, inspiration and minion.

The company, which began picking a word of the year in 2003, selected "culture" last year.

Top 'isms'

Top "isms" referenced on the Merriam-Webster website in 2015 include socialism, fascism, racism, feminism, communism, captialism and terrorism.

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