What the World Searched For in 2012

Whitney Houston, Hurricane Sandy, and Gangnam Style were among some of the most searched for terms.

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What do the death of a beloved pop star, a viral dance craze from a Korean rapper, and the risqué novel Fifty Shades of Grey have in common? They were all among the top terms web surfers searched in 2012, according to data collected by search engines Yahoo!, Google, and Bing through mid-December.

[PHOTOS: Most Popular Google Searches of 2012]

The popular searches that made it into the search engine hall of fame this past year aren't necessarily the most searched for—other more mundane terms such as "weather" or "pizza" might have more absolute volume—but instead measure people, events, and trends that spiked.

From the Olympics to the U.S. Election to royal baby fever, here's a look at the top searches from three search engine giants:

Google Top Trending Yahoo! Top Overall Bing Top News Stories
1. Whitney Houston 1. Election 1. iPhone 5
2. Gangnam Style 2. iPhone 5 2. 2012 election
3. Hurricane Sandy 3. Kim Kardashian 3. 2012 Olympics
4. iPad 3 4. Kate Upton 4. Hurricane Sandy
5. Diablo 3 5. Kate Middleton 5. Honey Boo Boo
6. Kate Middleton 6. Whitney Houston 6. Gangnam style
7. Olympics 2012 7. Olympics 7. KONY 2012
8. Amanda Todd 8. Political polls 8. Academy Awards
9. Michael Clarke Duncan 9. Lindsay Lohan 9. Kindle Fire HD
10. BBB12 10. Jennifer Lopez 10. Facebook IPO
Source: Google, Yahoo!, Bing

A retrospective of popular searches over the last year wouldn't be complete without a look at celebrity scandals. From compromising photos of British royal Prince Harry to Brangelina engagement rumors, Ask.com tracked the top trending questions about celebrities:

1. Kristen Stewart Will Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart get back together?
2. Katie Holmes Was Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise's marriage fake?
3. Psy/Gangnam Style What does Gangnam Style mean?
4. Snooki When is Snooki's baby due?
5. Prince Harry What will happen to Prince Harry because of the nude pictures?
6. Brad Pitt How big is Angelina's engagement ring?
7. Carly Rae Jepsen What is the best Call Me Maybe parody?
8. Jessica Biel When are Justin [Timberlake] and Jessica getting married?
9. Miley Cyrus Why did Miley Cyrus cut her hair?
10. Ryan Lochte Does Ryan Lochte have a girlfriend?
Source: Ask.com
(From left) Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and British actor Robert Pattinson pose prior to the German premier of 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2' film premier in Berlin on Nov. 16.

But although Kristen Stewart took the top spot in celebrity searches according to Ask.com, Kate Middleton is 2012's overall favorite celebrity by a landslide. Nearly half of adults surveyed put the newly-enceinte Duchess at the top of their lists of favorite celebrity newsmakers, topping other big names such as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, and Katie Holmes.

What did you search for this year? Leave a comment below.

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Meg Handley is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at mhandley@usnews.com.