The Atlantic

The Elusive Definition of 'Fascist'

Fascism is in the running to be Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year. But it’s not the right word for the current moment.
Source: Kostas Tsironis / Reuters

The votes are in, the people have spoken, and the result is ugly. Merriam-Webster has warned that fascism could become 2016’s most-searched term on its online dictionary—presumably with even more searches than bigly.

This is a significant result. The chaps at the Oxford Dictionary may issue their Word of the Year by decree—this year it’s post-truth, or so they say—but Merriam-Webster is a democratic dictionary. Its Word of the Year, part of an annual list of the top 10 search terms, reflects what is on people’s minds—if only they knew what it meant.

In 2014, the top five searches were culture, nostalgia, insidious, legacy, and feminism. In those innocent days, students struggled to compose

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