The most requested online definition this year was "blog" -- a word not even yet officially in the dictionary, Merriam-Webster says.
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Editors had planned to include "blog" -- the short term for Web log -- in the 2005 annual update of both the print and online versions of Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary, said Arthur Bicknell, spokesperson for the dictionary publisher.

But in face of demand, the company quickly added an early definition to some of its online sites, defining "blog" as "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer."

Rapid Rise
Typically, it takes about 20 years of usage for a word to become prominent enough to merit a place in an abridged dictionary. Some Internet terms and new diseases, such as AIDS and SARS, have made it in a fraction of that time.

"Blog" began appearing in newspapers and magazines in 1999, according to the publisher's records.

Merriam's lexicographers suspect the prominence blogs attained during the presidential campaigns and conventions this year sent people scrambling for a definition.

"It does sometimes happen that words in the headlines so grab people's attention that they become a most-frequently-looked-up word," said John M. Morse, president and publisher of Springfield-based Merriam-Webster.

Political Focus
Right behind "blog" in popularity on Merriam's year-end list were "incumbent" and "electoral."

Other words on the list touched on the war in Iraq, storms, bicycle races and even the emergence of insects on a 17-year cycle: In fourth place was "insurgent," followed by "hurricane," "cicada" and "peloton."

The eighth and ninth spots were taken by "partisan" and "sovereignty."

Bicknell said the company's Web sites get 10 lookup requests per second on average, and more than 100 per second during peak hours