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Merriam-Webster’s Words of the Year 2019

Merriam-Webster – They, plus quid pro quo, crawdad, exculpate, and 7 more of our top lookups of 2019 – “Our Word of the Year for 2019 is they. It reflects a surprising fact: even a basic term—a personal pronoun—can rise to the top of our data. Although our lookups are often driven by events in the news, the dictionary is also a primary resource for information about language itself, and the shifting use of they has been the subject of increasing study and commentary in recent years. Lookups for they increased by 313% in 2019 over the previous year…

It’s no surprise that impeach is among the top words of 2019, with the largest single spike following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of an impeachment inquiry on September 24th. Overall, the word had a 129% increase in lookups over last year. Impeach is defined in several ways, including “to charge with a crime or misdemeanor” and “to cast doubt on.” The former of these carries the additional specific meaning of “to charge (a public official) before a competent tribunal with misconduct in office”; the latter is often narrowed as well, with the meaning “to challenge the credibility or validity of.” Although frequently thought of as meaning “to remove from office,” impeach has a precise legal use in cases such as this, in which the action describes a step in removing an official from office, but does not refer to the removal itself. Impeach came to English from the French word empecher (“to impede”), itself from the Latin word impedicare (“to fetter”)—which is also the root of the English word impede…”

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