|Integrity tops the most frequently looked-up list.
In a year filled with political wrangling, natural disasters and pop culture curiosities, Americans turned to Merriam-Webster to help define them all.
Filibuster. Refugee. Tsunami. Each was among the dictionary publisher's 10 most frequently looked-up words this year among some 7 million users of its online site.
But topping the list is a word that some say gives insight into the country's collective concern about its values: integrity.
The noun, formally defined as a "firm adherence to a code" and "incorruptibility," has always been a popular one on the company's Web site, said Merriam-Webster President John Morse. But this year, the true meaning of integrity seemed to be of extraordinary concern. About 200,000 people sought its definition online.
"I think the American people have isolated a very important issue for our society to be dealing with," Morse said. "The entire list gives us a window that opens up into what people are thinking about in their lives."
Ralph Whitehead, a journalism professor at the University of Massachusetts, said it may reflect the continuing discussion about American values and morality, or it may indicate that integrity itself is becoming so scarce, its definition is unfamiliar.
No. 10 on the list is "inept," a word that Morse said was getting a lot of attention after President Bush delivered a live prime-time news conference that came to an awkward end when some TV networks cut him off to return to their regularly scheduled programs.
Sandwiched between "integrity" and "inept" is a cluster of words obviously plucked from the headlines, such as "tsunami," after one ravaged countries along the Indian Ocean last December.
But the Top 10 list is by no means an indication that Americans were curious orbaffledonly byweighty topics.
After Simon Cowell, the acid-tongued host of the television show "American Idol," called one singer "insipid," Merriam-Webster noticed a dramatic spike in the number of lookups for the word.
The ten words most frequently looked up are:
1 Integrity - Incorruptibility 2 Refugee - One that flees 3 Contempt - Wilful disobedience to a court, judge or legislature 4 Filibuster - The use of delaying tactics to prevent action 5 Insipid - Dull, flat 6 Tsunami - A great sea wave 7 Pandemic - Occurring over a wide area and affecting a large proportion of the population 8 Conclave - A private meeting or secret assembly 9 Levee - An embankment for preventing flooding 10 Inept - Generally incompetent or bungling