From carnage to covfefe, 2017 was an 'unpresidented' year for words
U.S. President Donald Trump reads an executive order withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership prior to signing it in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on Jan. 23, 2017.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images file
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If you didn't know what a "dotard" was before September, you probably do now.
Merriam-Webster, the venerable dictionary with the sassy Twitter feed, saw searches for certain words spike alongside major news events, thanks in part to a dizzying year of political scandals, tweets, gaffes and feuds.
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, along with newsmakers like Anthony Scaramucci, among others, drove users to the dictionary's website en masse to look up words they knew or thought they knew — as well as the totally made-up.
NBC News spoke with lexicographer and Merriam-Webster editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski to round up only the best words made famous in 2017.
"A word like carnage would not draw our attention," Sokolowski said. "The point being here is when a prominent person like a newsmaker, such as the president of the United States, uses language in a very particular way it suddenly seems more specific or slightly more real to a lot of people, so it drove a lot of traffic and people went to the dictionary."
The terror in Las Vegas is the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history
This word first spiked in January after Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former senator and a top adviser to Trump's campaign, announced he would recuse himself from any Justice Department investigation into Hillary Clinton.
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But according to Merriam-Webster, look-ups surged 56,550 percent in March when Sessions recused himself from the FBI's investigation into the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, which includes whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
Sessions insisted that he had no improper contacts with the Russians, but nevertheless stepped aside from the probe because of his involvement in the Trump campaign.
Ivanka Trump, who serves as a top-level adviser in her father's administration, told CBS News in April that she didn't "know what it means to be complicit" in response to a question about her silence on the president's hard-line conservative approach to issues like immigration, LGBT rights, Planned Parenthood and climate change.
"This is an invitation to the dictionary; it was very clear that she didn’t know what the word means," Sokolowski said. "The word itself was the story."
While Merriam-Webster saw a 1,200 percent spike in look-ups, "complicit" was Dictionary.com's Word of the Year. "Saturday Night Live," meanwhile, took aim at the first daughter with a perfume commercial parody.
Steve Bannon, the ousted White House chief strategist who sees himself as the torchbearer of the political movement that elected Trump president, has been called many things.
But it was an April editorial in The New York Times calling him a "Svengali" that caused the word to jump to the top spot in look-ups, with a 2,805 percent increase, Sokolowski said.
Merriam-Webster defines the word as “a person who manipulates or exerts excessive control over another" — a term that "probably isn’t in everybody's word bag," Sokolowski said, explaining the increased search traffic.
Searches spiked again in August when The Washington Post reported that Bannon would be leaving the White House, billing him as Trump's "Svengali."
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who has since resigned, tried to clean up the gaffe by saying it wasn't a mistake or a misspelling, but was only understood by a close group of the president's advisers. Trump issued another tweet indicating that he was in on the joke.
Who can figure out the true meaning of "covfefe" ??? Enjoy!
Anthony Scaramucci was the White House communications director for six days, but he made a big splash entering and exiting the White House.
The ex-Wall Street hedge fund manager and top Republican fundraiser, known as "The Mooch," stirred a 16,721 percent increase in look-ups to the word "Scaramouch," which is a stock character in an Italian comedy and also means "a cowardly buffoon," according to the dictionary.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and Trump spent the summer escalating a war of words amid increased nuclear tensions between the two countries. After Trump gave a controversial speech to the United Nations in September in which he threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea and called Kim "rocket man," a reference to his country's recent missile tests, Kim hit back.
The North Korean strongman prompted head-scratching and a staggering number of dictionary look-ups when he called Trump a "mentally deranged dotard."
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 charges, including conspiracy against the U.S., in October as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
The news prompted massive look-ups for the words "indictment" (943 percent) and "collusion" (2,198 percent), Sokolowski said.
Searches for "surrogacy" surged in December after news broke that Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., had asked female staffers about carrying his child. He offered one former staffer $5 million to act as a surrogate for him and his wife, according to an associate of the former staffer.