Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster, said "science" was chosen as word of the year based on the publisher's tracking of lookups on its website.
"It is a word that is connected to broad cultural dichotomies: observation and intuition, evidence and tradition," Sokolowski said. "A wide variety of discussions centered on science this year, from climate change to educational policy. We saw heated debates about 'phony' science, or whether science held all the answers. It's a topic that has great significance for us. And it fascinates us -- enough so that it saw a 176 percent increase in lookups this year over last, and stayed a top lookup throughout the year."
Sokolowski said the No. 2 word on the list, "cognitive," was likely boosted by news stories about injuries suffered by NFL and NHL players as well as traumatic brain injuries suffered by members of the armed forces.
"People are not only interested in knowing more about how injuries affect cognitive function, but also how age and other factors affect cognitive function and development," Sokolowski said.
Other words making the top 10 for 2013 were rapport, communication, niche, ethic, paradox, visceral, integrity and metaphor.