A Merriam-Webster dictionary editor reveals the most commonly looked up words

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Kory Stamper, a lexicographer for Merriam-Webster and author of “Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries,” told us the surprising words that are consistently the most looked up. Following is a transcript of the video.

The words that you expect to be looked up these really long hard words are actually rarely looked up because they’re not used very often.

My name is Kory Stamper and I am a lexicographer for Merriam-Webster. That means I am a writer and editor of dictionaries.

Some of the most consistently looked up words are, oddly enough, words that you would not think would need to be looked up.

So they tend to be words that are in the middle of the road linguistically. They’re not super, super hard, and they’re not super, super easy. So words like “disposition” or “ubiquitous” or “esoteric.”

Those are words that always are really high in the lookups. Confused spelling or usage pairs also are pretty high. So “affect” and “effect,” the two different spellings of “camaraderie.” Those are always pretty high.

But generally speaking, the words that you expect to be looked up – these really long hard words – are actually rarely looked up because they’re not used very often. But words like “disposition” and “ubiquitous” and “esoteric” get used enough, but vaguely enough that no one’s really sure what they mean.

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