"Pragmatic" is Merriam-Webster's Word of The Year. What's Yours?

Thursday, December 15, 2011 - 10:00 AM

Merriam-Webster has chosen "pragmatic" as their word of the year. The dictionary saw a spike in searches for the word in the run-up to the debt ceiling negotiations and again during deficit negotiations this Fall.

»» What do you think of the decision? What would be your word of 2011? Post it below and tell us why! Or tweet us @brianlehrer using the tag #blword.


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Comments [41]

Richard Ufer from Rutherford, NJ

My word of the new year 2012 is "detrimate". A verb meaning to knowingly make a bad decision, from the combination of determine and detriment. Example: Never you mind, I'll be doing the detrimating around here.

Can be used in many contexts, an all purpose bastardization word.

Jan. 02 2012 10:22 AM
Rene of Northport from Northport NY

Icon. I can excuse the XY and Z generations for revelling in an awesome new word. But boomers, OMG, how could you so shamelessly force the word into every piece? Yikes, what conjures images of dusty relics grates on the ear and driving one to be an iconoclast.

Dec. 19 2011 05:59 PM
Teddy Abbedale from Manhattan


Suddenly anyone in the 1% isn't a "rich person", but a "job-creator". As much as I like rich people, they are not all out there creating jobs. In fact most everybody I know (including myself) is a one-percenter, and raising our taxes will have zero impact on job creation.

Dec. 19 2011 05:17 PM


What's the word for "work harder for less pay"

Sadly Lucy, it's called reality.

I would like to take this self-serving moment and highlight my recently published Urban Dictionary word and get it some exposure while we come up to this soon to be Oscar season:

a cinematically manipulated Hollywood studio produced motion picture, especially one lavishly produced melodrama, that has or is expected to boldly WOW the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and subsequently obtain a Best Picture Oscar award for the studio and film producers.

Similar to: Oscar Bait
With a touch of makeup, Harvey Weinstein aged Justin Timberlake to star in the producers $200million dollar Bill Clinton/Monicagate Oscarbuster biopic.

Dec. 19 2011 01:05 PM

What's the word for "work harder for less pay?"

Dec. 19 2011 12:13 PM
Renter from East Village

In the 1960s I looked up the word fascism in an old dictionary from the 40s my father had in the house. The definition included the merger of business and government and the form of repressive policy that resulted. In the 1980s I again looked up the word in a new dictionary and found that mention of the connection of business to the repressive government policies of fascism had been omitted. Fascism is a word who's meaning should be restored in light of the current role of corporate power in government and the passage of recent laws nullifying the 1st amendment.

Dec. 19 2011 12:12 PM

What's the word for "work harder for less pay?"

Dec. 19 2011 12:10 PM
Lisa from Coney Island

"Consensus" and "consent"
con, which means "with" + the Latin verb sentir, which means "to sense," i.e., be in one's body.
Consensus -- to be face to face and listening, working toward a decision everybody has participated in and can get behind.

Dec. 19 2011 12:04 PM

umm, "mem" is the french pronunciation of the word "same". In the 20th century using French pronunciation for strange words probably seemed like a good plan but in this case it's wrong.

Dec. 19 2011 12:00 PM


word of the year!!!

Dec. 19 2011 11:57 AM
k.b. from ny,ny

My friend Petrushka recommends "hashtag".

Dec. 19 2011 11:55 AM
Impatient from Tribeca

Oh wow, a WNYC listener suggested "Occupy" as the word of the year. Breaking news.

Maybe "Respect" should be the word of the year. As in "Please show some respect and do not move your bowels on my doorstep."

Dec. 19 2011 11:54 AM
Sophia from Yonkers, NY

anthroposophy as in anthroposophic medicine

Dec. 19 2011 11:53 AM
James from Tribeca


Dec. 19 2011 11:53 AM
Leo from NYC

I'm not an expert or a linguist or anything, but I believe that Bird is the Word...

Dec. 19 2011 11:50 AM

The word of the year should *not* be "occupy." The protests spoken of w/r/t "Occupy Wall Street" were not meaningful political occupations of power structures. They were politically-motivated squatter camps abutting power structures.
See, as support to my belief:

Rather, the word of the year should be: *downgrade.*

We've seen intransigence in Washington lead to a a credit rating downgrade. The European debt crisis has produced the same. American citizens have downgraded their expectations for their careers and financial well-being. Their employment hopes have been on the downgrade as well. Corporate hiring and profits have been on the downgrade in some instances as well.

The word I looked up in 2011 was "sententious." I wasn't sure whether to describe Newt Gingrich as smug, sanctimonious, or sententious.

Dec. 19 2011 11:48 AM
Dustin McIlvain from NYC


Dec. 19 2011 11:47 AM
PHILIOR from Brooklyn

Dear Brian,
I hope you'll have courage to admit that the "word" of the year is an annoying expression YOU-KNOW, which you and WNYC are not immune from.
The second place is divided between I-MEAN and LIKE, whereas the latter is more prevalent among young people.
I will bet on the frequency of use of these language contaminators that is way higher than PRAGMATIC or any other.

Dec. 19 2011 11:35 AM
PC from NJ


Dec. 19 2011 11:28 AM
Pete from down the street


1. Make conflicting or evasive statements; equivocate: "the more she tergiversated, the greater grew the media interest".
2. Change one's loyalties; be apostate.

Dec. 19 2011 11:16 AM
Joe from nearby

Team 6

Dec. 19 2011 11:13 AM
Walter Salzmann from Jersey shore

Word of the year :kakistocracy--government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.
For obvious reasons

Dec. 18 2011 08:10 AM
David Peritz from Hoboken

"Thermokarst"--perhaps not the word of the year so much as the word of the week...and the coming century. There's a tremendously scary article about the melting of the Arctic permafrost in today's Times ( From this article I gather that this esoteric term refers to the collapse of land and subsequent bog and lake formation that results when the permafrost melts and is no longer able to support the land mass resting on it. The melting is, of course, the result of global warming and what scientists are now coming to understand is that the thawing permafrost releases the carbon dioxide and methane it's stored for millenia. The overall result is a positive and accelerating feedback loop that can, over the longterm, release green house gases at a rate that seems to me will more than offset whatever modest reductions world leaders and governments will be able to secure through new treaties--if we even get that far. All this to say, though arcane, terms like thermokarst may have a lot more to do with the ultimate fate of the planet and sentient life on it than benign, ordinary language terms like pragmatism.

BTW, like many others 'occupy' jumped to mind. But we are talking about a word of the year, not just the last few months, right? Seems a bit myopic to not throw into the mix terms like social media revolution, Arab uprisings, etc.

Dec. 17 2011 01:08 PM
David Ratzan


Dec. 16 2011 07:39 PM
Mary from Garden City, NY

Texted it this morning as soon as it was asked on the show - but don't see it anywhere. My word is "Occupy".

Dec. 15 2011 10:35 PM
BBH from Long Island

Hegemony is the word. It is why our government is corrupt, why special interests control our politicians, and why our people and government are polarized. We must undue the current hegemony or our deep problems will go unsolved, and the way of life for the middle class American will disappear. The current hegemony and corporate power will give rise to "American Spring."

Dec. 15 2011 05:07 PM


Dec. 15 2011 11:52 AM
Paul from Tribeca

I'd say something different. Syzygy. Alignment of 3 celestial bodies. We had two total lunar eclipses and apparently 3 partial solar eclipses this year. And it's a cool word.

Dec. 15 2011 11:34 AM
Lisa from Forest Hills, NY

dubious - seems to be a lack of trustworthiness, truthfulness and sincerity.

Dec. 15 2011 11:33 AM
Gabriela Ammann from Brooklyn

Occupy, of course!

Dec. 15 2011 11:32 AM
Erika from Brooklyn

Word of the year is definitely “Occupy”!

Dec. 15 2011 11:31 AM
ray from Brooklyn, NY


Dec. 15 2011 11:31 AM
Sandy Ewing from Manhattan


Dec. 15 2011 11:29 AM
michael turek

My vote is for Bespoke. Seems like everything has to be bespoke now.

Dec. 15 2011 10:54 AM
Nora from Bloomfield, NJ

I'm with Ben: OCCUPY

It's entered the common argot as in:

My aggravated sister to her son: "Just OCCUPY somewhere else!"

Webcaster from the Nov. 17th rally: "I'm trying to OCCUPY an umbrella."

Dec. 15 2011 10:40 AM
Ivan from Manhattan

Occupy is an obvious choice--- but what about the much broader one: Protest?

Dec. 15 2011 10:38 AM

My first thought, like Ben, was "Occupy" - but to cover the Arab Spring I think I'd go with "Protest." I guess I agree with TIME magazine!

Dec. 15 2011 10:37 AM
Patricia Bolgosano from Carmel, NY

Exacerbate. I heard that word many times throughout the year. I also like the way it sounds. :)

Dec. 15 2011 10:35 AM
Serge from Upsate Manhattan (see you on the train, Brian)

My favorite new word for this year was "craptastic". It somehow just fits the direction our country is going in....

Dec. 15 2011 10:34 AM
Marilyn from Montclair

Dysfunctional. American "democracy."

Dec. 15 2011 10:33 AM
Ben from Westchester

It would have to be OCCUPY. I can't imagine any other choice.

Dec. 15 2011 10:31 AM

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