Searches for 'volunteer' definition on Merriam-Webster spikes 1900 percent after United Airlines incident

On Monday, a video of a passenger being dragged off a United Airlines flight went viral online. The crew of the Chicago to Louisville flight had asked for volunteers to step off the plane because it was overbooked. When no one volunteered, they resorted to using a computer to randomly select passengers to leave. When one man, a doctor, refused, the crew tried to force him off.

United said in a statement:

Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation.

Following widespread reporting on the incident and United's statement, Merriam-Webster reported that the search for the word "volunteer" spiked 1900 percent.

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"Lookups for volunteer spiked 1900% on April 10, 2017, after video of a passenger being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight in Chicago was widely circulated," said Merriam-Webster's statement.

According to the dictionary, the word means "someone who does something without being forced to do it," especially those who join the military or opt to work for no pay.

In addition to the search, the video also prompted a heavy backlash of United Airlines: