Russian election influence, the ever-widening sexual harassment scandal, mass shootings and the opioid epidemic helped elevate the word "complicit" as Dictionary.com's word of the year for 2017.
Look-ups of the word increased nearly 300 per cent over last year as "complicit" hit just about every hot button from politics to natural disasters, lexicographer Jane Solomon told The Associated Press ahead of today's formal announcement of the site's pick.
"This year a conversation that keeps on surfacing is what exactly it means to be complicit," she said.
"Complicit has sprung up in conversations about those who speak out against powerful figures in institutions, and those who stay silent."
The first of three major spikes for the word struck March 12. That was the day after "Saturday Night Live" aired a sketch starring Scarlett Johansson as Ivanka Trump in a glittery gold dress peddling a fragrance called "Complicit" because: "She's beautiful, she's powerful, she's complicit."
The bump was followed by another April 5, also related to Ivanka, Solomon said. It was the day after she appeared on "CBS This Morning" and told Gayle King, among other things: "I don't know what it means to be complicit."
It was unclear at the time whether Ivanka was deflecting or whether the summa cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business with a degree in economics didn't really know.
Another major spike occurred October 24, the day Arizona Republican Jeff Flake announced from the Senate floor that he would not seek re-election, harshly criticising President Donald Trump and urging other members of the party not to stand silently with the president.
"I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr President, I will not be complicit," Flake said.
Solomon noted that neither she nor Dictionary.com can know what sends people to dictionaries or dictionary sites to look up "complicit" or any other word. She and other lexicographers who study look-up behaviour believe it's likely a combination of people who may not know a definition, are digging deeper or are seeking inspiration or emotional reinforcement of some sort.
As for "complicit," she said several other major events contributed to interest in the word. They include the rise of the opioid epidemic and how it came to pass, along with the spread of sexual harassment and assault allegations against an ever-growing list of powerful men, including film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
he scandal that started in Hollywood and quickly spread across industries has led to a mountain of questions over who knew what, who might have contributed and what it means to stay silent.