Dictionary.com Alphabet of
Most Looked-Up Words in 2005

Dictionary.com presents the "most popular word" for each letter of the alphabet. These are the words, according to our logs, which were the most frequently looked-up in 2005. See the most frequently looked-up words in 2004.

  Most Popular Word Notes About the Most Popular Word New Words Added   
in 2005   
A affect Affect and effect (see 'E') trip up most people (See our guide to their usage). Appoggiatura was the winning word in the 2005 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Atkins diet
B benevolent Benevolent is a word derived from Latin bene "well" and volentem "wishing" and is a way of saying someone is kindly and generous. The quite-opposite belligerent was the most looked-up 'B' in 2004, but fell to second place in 2005. brag book
C cynical Cynical started out referring to a member of a school of ancient Greek philosophers who felt contempt for ease and pleasure. In the news: culling birds to stop the spread of Avian flu, charges of cronyism in the Bush administration, a lack of comity in the U.S. Congress. cat-sit
D definitely A decidedly difficult word to spell is the most looked-up 'D', due to its pronunciation. Its origin is Latin definire "to bound, end, terminate." The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina brought discussions of a diaspora of New Orleans residents. dataveillance
E effect Affect and effect: which means what? We explain here. The base of affect is Latin ad- "at, to" and facere "do" while effect's base is Latin ex- "out, thoroughly" and facere "do". Other 'E' words in the news: the benefits of episiotomy called into question by a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. ecoregion
F fallacious Fallacious is a deceptive word (wink) and people look it up to make sure they are using it correctly. The word fallacy was a term in logic for a deceptive or misleading argument but is used more generally now for a delusion based on false reasoning. Another 'F' word in the news is filibuster, which was threatened and disputed in the U.S. Senate. fan fiction
G gregarious Believe it or not, this word's derivation has to do with animals. Its original meaning was a reference to animals living in flocks or herds and then more generally to people who are socially inclined and fond of company. Most misspelled in 'G': genius, spelled genious. geek chic
H hyperbole We use so many figures of speech but then have trouble describing them. An example of hyperbole? The complaint "You never listen to me!" Hawaiian pizza
I irony For irony, see the most misspelled word starting with the letter 'G'. In the news: ideologues, indict, Intelligent Design, and regions inundated by disaster. intelligent design
J jaded Simply means "bored," from an archaic noun meaning "old worn-out horse" or "bad-tempered woman." job spill
K karma #1 karma and #2 knowledge swap places from last year. The cycle of life continues. kiteboarding
L love When people want to express this term of endearment, maybe they have a look in the dictionary first. It has a Germanic source and shares an Indo-European root with Sanskrit and Latin words pertaining to "desire." In the news: levee. lifestyle office
M metaphor There's another figure of speech for you. Its etymology may help you remember it: it is from Greek meaning "to transfer." In a metaphor, a word or phrase is transferred from one context to another, creating a vivid association. An example is: To give someone a piece of one's mind. In the news: malfeasance by government officials alleged, moot points, the Millennial Generation or simply the Millennials. menuboard
N naive This word throws people off because its French origins make its spelling and pronunciation different than expected; also spelled 'naïve.' nanoscience
O oxymoron The list is long (we all know jumbo shrimp): obedient defiance, old news, one choice, one size fits all, original copy - are examples. one-hit wonder
P paradox Paradox and paradigm are often confused. Paradox is from Greek para- "aside from, contrary" and doxa "opinion" - and it is something that seems to go against common sense but may still be true or a person or thing with qualities that seem to be opposite. In the news: concerns about a possible pandemic of Avian flu. phishing
Q quixotic A good word to know if you understand it: "naively idealistic" (see naive, above) or "unrealistic and impractical." An example: a quixotic plan to make money from a free Web site. quirkyalone
R rhetoric Here's the third figure of speech in the top 26 looked-up words! The word rhetoric came through French via Latin and Greek and means "the art of using language so as to persuade or influence others." There are many rhetorical figures of speech, including onomatopoeia, rhetorical question, syllepsis, and zeugma. In the news: recrudesce, controversy over the term refugee. repost
S sex Hmmm. Along with 'love', something we are said to think about a lot. Guess we look both up a lot, too! U.S. Supreme Court nominations stir talk about stare decisis and scatology. search engine
optimization
T theme Relatively new combinations with theme are: theme park, theme restaurant, theme song - all referring to some recurring or unifying idea. In the wake of last year's disaster, new tsunami warning systems have been implemented. TiVo
U ubiquitous Ubiquitous is from Latin ubique "everywhere" - a hard word to remember, even though it is everywhere! Maybe you could pair the word with something that starts with 'U' and is ubiquitous, as a type of mnemonic: ubiquitous use. Or how about something like 'ubiquitous Starbucks' or 'ubiquitous Dunkin' Donuts'? undertime
V virtue The field of virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in ethics. It emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to duties or rules and consequences of actions. The virtues often number seven, but may occur in many forms. Two popular versions are: faith, hope, charity/love, justice, temperance, prudence, fortitude; also, humility, prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice, awe, mercy. v-mail
W whether Whether and weather are confused. Whether is a busy word, acting as a conjunction, pronoun, adjective, and adverb. People often look up 'whether' to find out the usage of 'whether or not'. The 'or not' should be dropped when whether is used to mean "if" as in "It is not known whether she will write a sequel." water birth
X xenophobia In this era when we are reminded of terrorism on a daily basis, there is much xenophobia (intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries). Other words we have are xenology and xenotransplantation. xenology
Y yield Yield is looked up because of the "i before e" confusion (like weird, wiener, etc.). Yield curve is an important term these days. yowzer
Z zeal Zeal and jealousy both come from Latin zelus and Greek zelos "ardent feeling"; the word first had positive meanings regarding love and passion, but it has taken on negative tones when describing religion. zafu






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