Top ten list of most popular words 2014

wordsThe top ten list of most popular words for 2014 might surprise you because of how much the list is driven by what’s in the news and what’s being advertised. Websites like and Merriam Webster’s rank words by the number of look-ups during a specific time frame making it easy to get a current top ten list or even a list of the top ten words of 2014.

Conversations going on around us, stories in the news, and what we read are causing people to turn to Google and search for the meaning of words. Stories are grounded in their language and if we are going to form an opinion of the event or story, we better know what they are talking about. Thank goodness for Google!

The word Autonomy came in at number 9 on the Top Ten List of 2014, and it’s no surprise why. The geopolitical landscape in 2014 was awash with countries demanding their autonomy. The 2014 year saw the referendum of Scotland Independence, the situation in Ukraine, and Hong Kong seeking autonomy for themselves. As we watched these stories unfold, we needed to know exactly why autonomy is coveted.

Surreptitious, coming in at number 8 on the list, is defined as acting or doing something clandestinely; or done, made or acquired by stealth. 2014 news was full of coverage on major security breaches at the large retail chains Target and Home Depot, the 40th anniversary of Watergate (yeah, remember that one? Surreptitiously acquired information and such), and ah yes, Donald Sterling and his unflattering private conversations, all stories which helped boost the volume of lookups on the word surreptitious. My guess is, when people see the word, “surreptitious,” they have no idea what it means and look it up like I did.

In 2014, what I consider to be a business word staple, – “Innovation” went mainstream, coming in at number 7 on the list. The word Innovation seems to be gaining momentum due to books on the topic of innovation and how innovation actually takes place. Maybe it was helped along by the Mindspot Research blogs the year before on Innovation and the Innovation Process.

The “word” listed at number 6 caught my attention because technically it is a French phrase, “Je ne sais quoi”, likely propelled into the top ten list by Sonic’s television commercial.  If you have seen this Sonic advertisement you may recall it as the “Wingman” commercial.  One of the guys sitting in the car misunderstands when the other says, “Je ne sais quoi” and says, “Jenna said what?”  In case it’s not top of mind recall for you, here’s the commercial:

Since the volume of look-ups does not appear to be directly related to the public’s desire to learn French, chances are it was driven by the public wanting to know what the two guys in the Sonic ad are saying.

It was interesting to see Feminism, ranked at number 5 in a year that’s not 1963. Turns out it’s not due to a new Global Feminism or an interest in Betty Friedman’s expose, “The Feminine Mystique” or even women researching Gloria Steinem. It was more likely pushed up the word list by Time Magazine’s List of 100 Most Influential People claiming 2014 was a year of “pop feminism.” And if you recall, there was a Supreme Court ruling in 2014 in favor of Hobby Lobby where the court declared “that family-owned corporations like Hobby Lobby cannot be forced to pay for insurance coverage for contraception for employees over their religious objections.”  Agree or disagree, this got folks thinking about Feminism and what it might mean to them.

The most looked-up word in the year 2014 was “culture”, ranking number 1. It is trending in the top ten list for this week, even as this blog is being written. The word is being used more frequently in everyday environments. Therefore, folks need to know that culture is defined as, “the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.”

Interested to see what other words sent us searching in 2014? Here is the complete Top 10 List as ranked at the end of 2014 by Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.






Je ne sais quoi





Can’t get enough Top 10 Words?  Check out how they have changed over the years by reading a couple of our archived blogs with top ten word lists for 2011 and top ten word lists for 2012.

by Lynnette Leathers CEO of Mindspot Research, a division of Mindspot, Inc.

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