Word: surreal

Pronunciation: sə-REE-əl

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: having the qualities of surrealism; bizarre

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson

Happy New Year! It’s the first Word of the Week of 2017, and since I ended 2016’s vocabulary segment with Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year, I figured it would be fun to start this year with Merriam-Webster‘s. This word was chosen for having been looked up far more often in the last year than in previous years, especially after certain significant events, and I couldn’t agree more: 2016 was an incredibly “surreal” year!

“Surreal” refers to anything that displays the qualities of Surrealism, that is, what is bizarre and irrational in nature. The word arose in the 1930s as a back-formation of the noun “surrealism”, defined as “a 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind”. This noun derives from the French noun surréalisme, which comprises two roots: the prefix sur- “over” and the Latin adjective realis “actual”.

For years, “surreal” has been a favorite adjective of mine for describing things I find unbelievable or particularly unusual. Merriam-Webster defines the word as “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream”, a quality that defines the distinct style of the surrealist art movement. If the details in your stories tend to challenge the limits of reality, you may be set to create some interestingly “surreal” art in 2017!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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