How does a musty old dictionary business stay relevant in the age of Spell Check, auto-correct and the all-important educated guess?

In the case of Merriam-Webster this year, the answer was to track all online free-dictionary searches (not including Google or other Internet dictionaries, so probably not all that accurately), in order to come up with a list of the most-searched words of 2010. Unsurprisingly, the top 10 are almost all recession-related.

Merriam-Webster prez John Morse says they looked for “the words that have had spikes that strike us very much as an anomaly for their regular behavior.”

The winner: “Austerity,” with 250,000 searches. Full list after the jump.

Morse blames the curiosity on the European debt crisis that began in Greece this year. So, uh, what's austerity?

Credit: Merriam-Webster

Credit: Merriam-Webster

You'd think, what with its popularity, they would get rid of the first two definitions. In our humble opinion, defining a word with itself should be a practice left in the 20th century. Or the 14th century (you know, when “austerity” first made its way into conversation). Anyway, here's the rest of this year's golden vocab:

  • Pragmatic
  • Moratorium
  • Socialism
  • Bigot
  • Doppelganger
  • Shellacking
  • Ebullient
  • Dissident
  • Furtive

“Socialism” and “shellacking” are totally Republican-planted shout-outs to Obama, who got a pounding this year for his health-care bill. We're also glad to see Facebook made a cameo with “doppelganger.” (M-W editors say that last one saw an additional spike after the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” was called Julia Roberts' doppelganger on “Good Morning America.”)

For a more comprehensive list, the American Dialect Society will release its “Word of the Year” winners in January. Until then, here's to austerity! And 250,000 more people knowing what it means!

LA Weekly