Merriam Webster's 'Word Of The Year' Is Vaxx

Written By BlabberBuzz | Tuesday, 30 November 2021 05:15

With an extended definition to reflect the times, Merriam-Webster has announced an omnipresent truth as its 2021 word of the year: vaccine.

“This was a word that was extremely high in our data every single day in 2021,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large, told The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s remark.

“It really represents two different stories. One is the science story, which is this remarkable speed with which the vaccines were developed. But there’s also the debates regarding policy, politics and political affiliation. It’s one word that carries these two huge stories,” he announced.

The selection comes after “vax” as word of the year from the folks who publish the Oxford English Dictionary. And it comes after Merriam-Webster chose “pandemic” as a top lookup last year on its site.

“The pandemic was the gun going off and now we have the aftereffects,” Sokolowski stated.

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At Merriam-Webster, lookups for “vaccine” rose 601% over 2020, when the first U.S. shot was administered in New York in December after quick development, and months of speculation and debate over efficacy. The world’s first jab took place earlier that month in the U.K.

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Compared to 2019, when there was little urgency or chatter regarding vaccines, Merriam-Webster logged an increase of 1,048% in lookups this year. Debates over inequitable distribution, vaccine mandates, and boosters kept interest high, Sokolowski stated. So did vaccine hesitancy and friction over vaccine passports.

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The word “vaccine” wasn’t birthed in a day, or due to a single pandemic. The first known use stretches back to 1882, though references pop up earlier related to fluid from cowpox pustules used in inoculations, Sokolowski announced. It was borrowed from the New Latin “vaccina,” which goes back to Latin’s feminine “vaccinus,” meaning “of or from a cow.” According to Merriam-Webster, the Latin for cow is “vacca,” a word that might be akin to the Sanskrit “vasa,” according to Merriam-Webster.

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Vaccinations date back to 1714, in one sense referring to the act of injecting an “inoculum.”

Earlier this year, Merriam-Webster added to its online entry for “vaccine” to cover all the talk of mRNA vaccines, or messenger vaccines like those for COVID-19 developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

While other dictionary companies choose words of the year by committee, Merriam-Webster bases its selection on lookup data, paying close attention to spikes and, more recently, year-over-year increases in searches after weeding out evergreens. The company has been declaring a word of the year since 2008.

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