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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!