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Merriam-Webster’s 2018 Word of the Year is ‘justice’



donald trump jeff sessions
President Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Merriam-Webster announced its Word of the Year on Monday, and fittingly, the winner is a word that appeared in political headlines practically nonstop in 2018.

The dictionary chose “justice” as the Word of the Year because it was one of the most looked-up words of 2018, Merriam-Webster said in a statement. People looked up “justice” 74% more in 2018 than they did the year before.

“The word and the concept of justice has been at the center of so many of our national debates over the past year: racial justice, social justice, criminal justice, economic justice,” Merriam-Webster editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski said. “A conversation about these topics can naturally lead to seeking a clearer idea of what we mean when we speak of justice.”

Merriam-Webster defines justice as “the maintenance or administration of what is reasonable, correct, lawful, or deserved.”

Read more: This list of every ‘Word of the Year’ is like taking a trip through time

Justice was a running theme throughout 2018, and the word played a key role in some of the year’s most turbulent political moments. According to the dictionary, the term “obstruction of justice” saw increased look-ups on Aug. 1, the day President Donald Trump tweeted that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop “right now” the special counsel’s investigation into his campaign.

“Justice” can also be a synonym for judge, the dictionary noted, and the word spiked again in late September when Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testified before Congress after being accused of sexual assault.

The Department of Justice was a constant in the news as well in 2018, with the department announcing contentious policies on immigration, illegal border crossings, firearm sales, and recreational marijuana, to name a few.

“Justice is a word at the heart of many issues in our society,” Sokolowski said. “Through the dictionary, we can make these connections with words that tell us something about our culture, our language, and ourselves.”

Merriam-Webster also announced its list of 10 additional words that saw a significant spike in look-ups in 2018. They include “nationalism,” “pansexual,” “laurel,” and “maverick.”

Recent words to be named Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year include “feminism” in 2017 and “surreal” in 2016.

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