Merriam-Webster Chooses ‘Vaccine’ as 2021 Word of the Year

Merriam-Webster announced on Nov. 29 that “vaccine” was its word of the year for 2021.

Merriam-Webster, the oldest dictionary publisher in the United States, chooses its word of the year best on the search volume on its website. The word must be the top lookup in the past 12 months and must have seen a significant increase over the previous year.

The publishing company said that the interest for the definition of vaccine was “intense” in the past year, noting that it became a “vehicle for ideological conflict.”

“The promising medical solution to the pandemic that upended our lives in 2020 also became a political argument and source of division. The biggest science story of our time quickly became the biggest debate in our country, and the word at the center of both stories is vaccine,” the company said.

According to Merriam-Webster, lookups for the word increased 601% year-over-year from 2020 and that interest in the word ahs been high since the beginning of the pandemic.

“The prominence of the word vaccine in our lives in this era becomes even more starkly clear when we compare 2021 to 2019, a period in which lookups for the word increased 1048%,” Merriam-Webster said.

Merriam-Webster further said that lookups of the word rose by 535% in August due to “discussions about policy, approval, and vaccination rates rather than the vaccine itself.”

At that time, New York and California mandated vaccines for healthcare workers and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the Pfizer COVID-19 a full approval.

Merriam-Webster also revised and expanded its definition of vaccine to include scientific advances, such as mRNA technology, in how vaccines work.


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