In the year that Donald Trump’s inauguration triggered nationwide women’s protests and powerful men were toppled by a firestorm of sexual misconduct allegations, the leading US dictionary named “feminism” its word of 2017.
Merriam-Webster bestows the “Word of the Year” honor on the word or term with the sharpest spike in look-ups over the previous year.
This year the dictionary announced a 70 percent increase in online searches for “feminism” compared to 2016, recording multiple spikes corresponding to a string of news reports and events.
Searches rose following the Women’s March on Washington and other US cities on January 21, the day after Trump was sworn in as president, the dictionary said Tuesday.
There was another spike when White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, the first woman to run a successful US presidential campaign, said in February that she did not consider herself a feminist.
Interest was also driven by “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the Hulu series about a dystopian future in which a woman lives as a concubine during a time of dictatorship, and Hollywood blockbuster “Wonder Woman” starring Israel’s Gal Gadot.
Merriam-Webster said more look-ups followed the outpouring of sexual harassment allegations that have unseated well-known figures in Hollywood, politics, business, and triggered the #MeToo social media campaign by women all over the world.
The dictionary’s current definitions of feminism are “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.”
Another top trending word for 2017 was “complicit,” connected to Trump’s sacking of FBI director James Comey, Russian interference in the 2016 election, and Ivanka Trump’s comment that she did not know what the word meant — which was then parodied in a skit for television show “Saturday Night Live.”
Among the other spikes recorded was one for the word “dotard,” which North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un used in a statement about Trump in September.