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Merriam-Webster Chooses "Justice" as 2018 Word of the Year

By: Allan M. Siegel

On our blog, we talk frequently about justice. From describing our own work fighting for the injured and the wronged as they seek just and fair resolutions of their claims to discussions about important news, events, and legal decisions that impact our communities and fellow citizens, justice is a central and consistent theme in many of our posts.

While it’s true we are lawyers who’ve dedicated careers to helping clients navigate the complex system required for the administration of justice, “justice” isn’t just a word used by attorneys, politicians, or reporters looking for catchy headlines – it’s an idea that’s served as a foundational principle of our nation, and a concept which has a central place in our society’s collective consciousness. Merriam-Webster’s selection of “justice” as its 2018 Word of the Year proves just that.

Why Justice Prevailed

Merriam-Webster, one of the oldest and most trusted dictionary publishers in America, began collecting data on words most frequently consulted by people when it first went online in 1996. Over the years, it has bestowed its annual Word of the Year distinction upon a single term. Following “feminism” as the 2017 word of the year, “justice” rose to the top of the list in 2018.

Here are a few reasons why justice prevailed:

  • Increase in searches – In 2018, searches for the word “justice” on Merriam-Webster’s site increased by nearly 75% over the previous year.
  • Consistency as a top term – The number of users looking up “justice” spiked following major headlines and news stories featuring its use. However, unlike other similar spikes in online dictionary trends, such as the sudden increase in searches for “maverick” following the death of former Senator John McCain, searches for justice were more continuous throughout the year, and consistently among the top searched words of the day on any given day.
  • A year of events – Increases in look-ups of “justice” weren’t driven by any single event, but rather an entire year of events where justice was a central theme. This includes stories focusing on criminal justice (notably criminal justice reform), social and racial justice, economic justice, the Department of Justice, the use of the word as a title for a judge, and obstruction of justice, infamously linked to the Mueller investigation into Russian election meddling.

Looking at data as simple as the number of times people look up the definition of a word speaks to what’s become a focus for our society, and shows our desire to question and know exactly what we mean when we use the term. Whether it’s enforcing justice as a rule of law, emphasizing individual rights, or an aspiration that justice and fairness will be had, an increased curiosity in justice may very well shape the year to come, and potentially our future for many more to come.

What Justice Means

By all appearances, justice is a relatively straightforward and seemingly simple word. According to Merriam-Webster’s top definitions of the term, justice is defined as:

  • The administration or maintenance of what is just, particularly by an impartial adjustment of conflict or by assigning warranted relief / reward or punishment; i.e. social justice, meeting out justice.
  • A judge; i.e. Supreme Court Justice.
  • The administration of law, especially in regard to determining or establishing rights in accordance to rules of law or equity; i.e. a system of justice.
  • The quality of being just, impartial, or fair; i.e. the justice of a decision or a cause.

Whatever the reason, context, or meaning, one thing is clear: justice was on many people’s minds in 2018. As both a term describing essential elements of our legal system, and a concept upon which we define just, fair, and “right,” the word justice is term that packs a lot of meaning and significance. Though the way justice looks and feels may change throughout time and applied differently by the evolving views of our society, its premise is one that is generally consistent – it’s still major driving force behind how we collectively understand the world around us, what we deem unjust, and how we go about righting wrongs.

CSCS: Helping Victims in Their Fight for Justice

As civil trial attorneys, our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is driven by justice, and knows the concept it represents and the system our country created to dole it out are powerful tools for righting wrongs, inequity, and injustices.

We’ve discussed this idea in several of our blogs, including:

Backed by decades of collective experience, our legal team is passionate about helping clients who have suffered harm and losses at the hands of others as they seek justice through personal injury claims and other civil lawsuits. Though justice is a critical component of our country, the system victims must navigate to secure it can be complex and filled with many challenges – including those created by corporations, insurance companies, and other high-powered special interest groups that succeed when their injustices persist and go unaddressed.

Since the founding of our firm over four decades ago to this very day, our team is committed to helping clients find the solid footing, level playing field, and knowledgeable and aggressive representation they need in their fight for justice. Over the years, we’ve proven our ability to do just that, and have recovered over half a billion dollars in compensation for clients.

If you have a potential personal injury case you wish to discuss, contact our team for a free consultation. Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. serves residents throughout Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland.