Want to know the meaning of a word? Your first impulse is probably to reach for a dictionary. Or, if you’re like many people today, to type the word into the search window of an online reference using your computer or your smartphone. We’re lucky to have so many good online resources for word information these days, and one of the most popular is the Merriam-Webster site.
Back at the beginning of the 19th century, Noah Webster decided to put together a dictionary that would compile all of the words in English, with a focus on American English (for example, changing from the British spelling colour to color). By 1830 the dictionary was being widely used, and the publishing company owned by brothers George and Charles Merriam took over the project and broadened its scope, creating an “international” dictionary with even more words. Today, the Merriam-Webster company provides a variety of language resources, including an online dictionary.
If you want to know what other people want to know, the website provides lists of top search terms. They’ve also got a “word of the day” feature, interesting Top 10 lists on a range of topics, and of course complete information for thousands of words, including pronunciation guides, synonyms, and examples. Here are some of the words that people have been searching for this past week:
furlough (FUR-low) noun
A leave of absence (generally unpaid).
onomatopoeia (ah-nuh-mah-tuh-PEE-ah) noun
A use of a word whose pronunciation sounds like what the word means.
hegemony (heh-JEH-muh-nee) noun
Power, control, and/or authority over a group of people.
What words were you curious about this week?