The publishers of the authoritative dictionary of American English said that socialism and capitalism were the most looked-up words on the Merriam-Webster website this past US election year.
Socialism was looked up most often when healthcare made headlines and in the days following the Democratic and Republican conventions and the three televised debates between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney.
"We saw a huge spike for socialism on Election Day itself, but interest in both words was very high all year," said editor at large Peter Sokolowski, who noted how "lookups of one word often led to lookups of the other."
Merriam-Webster defines socialism as "any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods."
Capitalism is "an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market."
"It's clear that many people turned to the dictionary to help make sense of the commentary that often surrounds these words," said Merriam-Webster president and publisher John Morse in a statement.
Other words that made Merriam-Webster's words of the year list for 2012 included touché ("simply a word enjoying a period of increased popular use," Morse said), bigot, marriage, democracy, professionalism, globalization, malarkey, schadenfreude and meme.