The Most Searched-for Word Definition in Every Country

Do you remember dictionaries? Great big weighty books or tiny, illegible pocket editions that went out of date every year as new slang words entered the lexicon? And you had to know the alphabet to use one?!

Just kidding. Dictionaries are brilliant — “[u]sing one feels like prying open an oyster rather than falling down a rabbit hole,” writes Rachel del Valle on the difference between paper and digital dictionaries. Quite aside from the sensual thrill of the heavy tome and its crisp, thin pages, an old-school dictionary is a place for chance discoveries of strange new-to-you words — or revelatory meanings of words you thought you knew. 

But online dictionaries, or the snippet definitions that Google licenses and provides, are convenient. Your phone is a pocket dictionary that actually fits in your pocket. It’s fast, omni-lingual and yes — it leads you down rabbit holes, sometimes for worse but sometimes for better.

Google draws its definitions from disparate sources, but it’s used as a tool the world over, so its networked nature reveals all kinds of statistics about what people are looking up and learning, wherever they are. So, that’s what we did.

The Crossword Solver team dived down the rabbit hole to find the words that users in every country are using Google search to define. We analyzed Google search data to rank words based on the volume of searches for “word + definition” across languages in 135 different countries.

Key Findings

  • Gaslighting is the most searched definition in the U.S., and — at 130,000 U.S.-based searches per month — the most for any country in the world.
  • Pegging is the most searched word definition in the UK (11,000/month).
  • Woke is the most searched definition in Canada (7,200/month).
  • Bullying is the most searched definition in Australia (4,300/month).
  • In Japan, メンヘラ(translating to Menhera, slang for somebody needing mental health care) is the most searched definition — and the most searched non-English language definition in the world (92,000/month).

North America: Americans Want to Know the Truth Behind “Gaslighting”

There is a social and economic flavor to the list of words most searched for in the continent of North America. Five countries have words covering jobs, economics and responsibility — conjuring an image of angry spouses yelling, “You don’t know the meaning of responsibility!” at their feckless partners.

Difficult Definitions North America IG

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Mexicans would like a definition of science, while Trinidad and Tobago are curious about osmosis. Google users in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines want to know the meaning of pyroclastic flow (“a dense, destructive mass of very hot ash, lava fragments, and gases ejected explosively from a volcano”). More than 20,000 Vincentians were evacuated from their homes when La Soufriere volcano erupted on the main island in 2021, with the pyroclastic flow “destroying everything in its path,” according to the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre.

Difficult Definitions TOP10 US IG

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The U.S. is struggling with words that have gained in currency during the intensifying of the socio-political playfield in recent years. Gaslighting comes from the stage play and Ingrid Bergman-starring movie Gas Light. It involves “making someone seem or feel unstable, irrational and not credible, making them feel like what they’re seeing or experiencing isn’t real, that they’re making it up, that no one else will believe them,” according to Paige Sweet, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan.

“In this age of misinformation—of ‘fake news,’ conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes—gaslighting has emerged as a word for our time,” suggested the producers of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, announcing it as one of their words of the year for 2022.

Difficult Definitions TOP10 CANADA IG

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Canadians are likewise keen to know the meaning of words circulating in today’s discourse. The number one most mystifying term is woke, which means “alert to and concerned about social injustice and discrimination,” according to Google’s sources. Perhaps a more surprising hit, woman is the country’s fourth most sought definition. “It's one of the oldest words in the English language. One that's fundamental not just to our vocabulary but to who we are as humans,” explains’s Kim Elsesser.“ And yet it's a word that continues to be a source of intense personal importance and societal debate.”

South America: Geopolitics and Grammar

Geopolitics is on South America’s minds. Estado (state), democracia (democracy) and soberanía (sovereignty) are among the most searched definitions across the continent, while Peruvians are trying to understand aislamiento global (global Isolation). When you search this term in English, the resulting snippet from Wikipedia defines it as a “policy or doctrine of trying to isolate one's country from the affairs of other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic commitments, international agreements, and generally attempting to make one's economy entirely self-reliant.”

Difficult Definitions South America IG

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Uruguay is more concerned with politics on a domestic scale. Some 350 Uruguayans per month search for the meaning of arrendatario (tenant). And Guyana’s top search is metaphor, a top query they share with Ethiopia and which also makes the U.S. and Canadian top 10. Say it together, people: “Similes are indirect comparisons that use the word ‘like’ or ‘as.’ Metaphors are direct comparisons that state one thing is another.”

Our European map offers a curious cross-section of the continent. Some parts even read like a great European novel or history book. ‘Procrastination and Resilience,’ perhaps, or ‘Anxiety and Entropy.’ Hungary wants the meaning of a neologism. GPT stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformers, commonly known as GPT, are a family of neural network models that uses the transformer architecture and is a key advancement in artificial intelligence (AI) powering generative AI applications.” The first GPT dropped in 2018 with OpenAI’s GPT-1.

Difficult Definitions TOP10 UK IG

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Brits are certainly not immune to the appeal of looking up sex words online. Such terms account for two of the top three most searched definitions. Topical words dominate the list: Woke, Woman, Sustainability, Equity, Mental Health and Gaslighting have all become politically charged in recent times, and their respective debates are likely to intensify as politiciansstoke the fires of the culture war ahead of the next general election.

Middle East & Central Asia: Defining Artificial Intelligence

Accounting and love are the most searched definitions in two countries each in this region. One is “the process or work of keeping financial accounts” and the other “an intense feeling of deep affection,” although there is undoubtedly some overlap. Perhaps this overlap is to be found in Saudi Arabia’s most searched definition — monotheism: “the doctrine or belief that there is only one God.”

Difficult Definitions Middle East Central Asia IG

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Other countries search for terms that are less eternal and more of the moment. Turkey wants to know the meaning of artificial intelligence, one of the more contentious definitions in our study. Alan Turing proposed the imitation game nearly 75 years ago to test whether a computer could be considered intelligent; today the Alan Turing Institute opens its definition with: “The design and study of machines that can perform tasks that would previously have required human (or other biological) brainpower to accomplish.”

Rest of Asia & Oceania: Japanese Neologism is World’s Most Searched Foreign Word

Japan has the most searched non-English definition in the world. Menhera is “Japanese internet slang for somebody who has, likely suffers from mental illness or needs help for their mental illness.” As a slang word, Google actually turns to Urban Dictionary to provide its featured definition. The word menhera is actually a gairaigo, which — to save you looking it up — is a loan word to Japanese from another language, in this case the fusion of two words into one.

Difficult Definitions Asia Oceania IG

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Leave it to Vice to provide a more nuanced and culturally precise explanation of the menhera “subculture”: “Menhera, or “mental healther” in Japanese, pairs the now-famous pastel-toned kawaii look with still-taboo subjects like self-harm, PTSD and chronic illness. Its fans say the look has prompted an entire community to speak more openly about mental health whilst being able to keep up a cute aesthetic.”

Difficult Definitions TOP10 AUS IG

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There is a lot of overlap between Australia’s most searched words and those of the other English-language countries that we’ve profiled. But one word stands out. Bullying is a “national crisis,” according to one social researcher, who reveals that the “majority of Australian students have been bullied and one in five of these are bullied at least weekly.” In addition to the ongoing school bullying crisis, recent complaints have emerged of bullying in the Australian civil service, on TikTok and on mainstream TV shows.

Australia’s Fair Work Act 2009 defines bullying as “repeated unreasonable behaviour towards another person or group which creates a risk to health and safety.”

Africa: the Meaning of Love and Business

Africans are using Google to search for love: searches for the meaning of this word are most common in Benin, the Congo, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Tunisia, in English or French. Google’s French definition of amour translates as: “Lively feeling which pushes one to love (someone), to want good, to help by identifying oneself more or less.” Meanwhile, English speakers get “an intense feeling of deep affection.” Which one would you choose?

Difficult Definitions Africa IG

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Much of Africa is more business-minded, with accounting, business, communication, economics and entrepreneurship leading the way to leadership and management. Science and health are also a preoccupation, with climate change and photosynthesis showing up; lupus is an auto-immune disease, and genotype may refer to the “genetic constitution” of new viruses deriving from epidemiological breakouts in the region.

The Meanings of Life

The world has become word-obsessed in recent years, whether combing public statements for the true feelings hidden in carefully constructed sentences or revisiting lesser-used five-letter words in Wordle and the like. Indeed, Wordle itself was the most Googled word in 2022, although not by people looking for a definition of the term (“a brand name for an online word game in which players have six attempts to guess a five-letter word each day”) but for those looking to play it or find some answers.

Because in the end, Google — in all its uses — is much like the traditional dictionary in being a place we turn for answers, and in delivering a bunch more questions along with them as we persist along the eternal search for meaning.


To determine the most searched-for word definition in every country, we reviewed data from the “Matching Terms” feature of the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. We ranked words based on the volume of searches for words that are queried in conjunction with “definition” and its translations across languages in different countries. We retained compound nouns such as “climate change.”

For each country, we selected the term with the highest monthly search volume. In case of a tie, we chose the term with the lowest global search volume, considering that such a term is more specific to the given country.

For the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, we selected the top 10 words by monthly search volume in these countries.

We cleaned the dataset in certain instances when the word “definition” had multiple meanings in different languages. For example, in Slavic languages, it can refer to a grammatical element, the collocation “high definition,” and its literal translations, all of which are popular search queries. Additionally, there are some brands with the word “definition” in them.

This analysis is correct as of October 2023.

Additional Sources

1. Emnace, H. (2023). 30+ Essential Google Search Statistics for 2023.

2. Pan American Health Organization, (2021). Volcano La Soufriere eruption in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

3. Odoxa. (2019). La procrastination : un défaut largement répandu … dont les Français aimeraient se défaire.

4. Loftus, S. (2023). Ethnic Divisions and Ensuring Stability in Kazakhstan: A Guide for U.S. Policy.

5. Shiiba, N. et al. (2023). Climate change and coastal resiliency of Suva, Fiji: a holistic approach for measuring climate risk using the climate and ocean risk vulnerability index (CORVI).

6. World Bank. (2023). Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above).

7. Google Books Ngram Viewer. (2023). “Gaslighting”.

8. Google Books Ngram Viewer. (2023). “Metaphor,” “simile.

9. King’s College London. (2021). Public split on whether 'woke' is compliment or insult, and unsure what 'culture wars' means – despite huge surge in media coverage.

10. Boumphrey, R. et al. (2023). World Risk Poll 2021: Safe at Work? Global experiences of violence and harassment.

11. Bank of Canada. (2023). Canadian Survey of Consumer Expectations—First Quarter of 2023.

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