NEW YORK (AP) – In an expanded definition to reflect the times, Merriam-Webster has declared the ubiquitous truth with its word of the year 2021: vaccine.
“This word has been extremely common in our data every day in 2021,” Peter Sokolowski, editor-in-chief of Merriam-Webster, told The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s announcement.
“These are really two different stories. One of them is scientific history, namely the amazing speed with which vaccines were developed. But there are also debates about politics, politics, and political affiliation. It is one word that carries these two huge stories, ”he said.
The selection is made after the word “vax” as the word of the year from the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary. And that comes after Merriam-Webster selected “pandemic” as the top of its online site searches last year.
“The pandemic was caused by a pistol shot and now we have consequences,” Sokolowski said.
Merriam-Webster is looking for a “vaccine” increased by 601% since 2020, when the first US injection was performed in New York in December after rapid development and months of speculation and debate over effectiveness. The world’s first jab occurred earlier that month in the UK.
Compared to 2019, when there was little urgency or talk about vaccines, Merriam-Webster saw a 1,048% increase in requests this year. Discussions about unfair distribution, vaccine and booster requirements have maintained high interest, Sokolowski said. The same is true with hesitation over vaccinations and friction over vaccine passports.
The word “vaccine” did not appear overnight or because of a single pandemic. The first known use dates back to 1882, but there have been earlier references to cowpox pustule fluid used in vaccinations, Sokolowski said. It was borrowed from Novolatinsk “vaccine”, which goes back to the Latin feminine “vaccine”, which means “from a cow or from a cow.” According to Merriam-Webster, cow is Latin for vacca, which may be akin to the Sanskrit vasa.
Inoculation, on the other hand, dates from 1714, in a sense referring to the act of injecting an “inoculum.”
Earlier this year, Merriam-Webster added a “vaccine” to its online entry to cover all talk of mRNA vaccines or messenger vaccines such as the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
While other dictionary companies choose words of the year by committees, Merriam-Webster is basing its selection on search data, paying close attention to the spikes and, more recently, the annual increase in searches since the removal of evergreens. The company has been announcing the word of the year since 2008. Among those ranked second in the 2021 world biography:
RESTORATION: The deadly siege of the US Capitol on January 6 sparked interest.… The arrests continue, as do congressional hearings on the attack by supporters of President Donald Trump. Several of Trump’s allies have resisted the subpoenas, including Steve Bannon.
According to Sokolovski, the number of requests for this word in 2020 increased by 61,000%.
INFRASTRUCTURE: President Joe Biden was able to accomplish what Trump has often talked about but never achieved: a bipartisan infrastructure bill was signed.… When Biden offered to help with broadband, elderly care and preschool, the conversation turned not only to roads and bridges, but to “imaginative infrastructure,” Sokolovski said.
“Many have asked what is infrastructure if it is not made of steel or concrete? “Infrastructure” in Latin means “under the structure,” he said.
SUSTAINABILITY: This is the name of the last NASA rover.… It landed on February 18, 2021. “Perseverance is the most advanced Mars rover NASA has ever sent to the Red Planet, with a name that embodies NASA’s passion and our country’s ability to embrace and overcome challenges,” the space agency said.
The name was coined by Alexander Mather, a 14-year-old seventh grader at Lake Braddock High School in Burke, Virginia. He entered an essay competition hosted by NASA. He was one of 28,000 schoolchildren who applied.
NOMAD: The word came with the 2020 movie Nomad Land. In April 2021, he received three Oscars, including Best Picture., director (Chloe Zhao) and actress (Frances McDormand). Zhao became the first woman of color to be awarded the title of Best Director.
AP writer Jake Coyle called the indie’s success “an outspoken reflection on loneliness, grief and sorrow.” He wrote that it “resonated in a pandemic-ravaged year. This was done for the incredible Oscar champion: the focus was on a film about people who gravitate towards the marginal. “
Other words in the Merriam-Webster Top 10: cicada (we had an invasion), keeper (the Cleveland Indians became Cleveland Sentinels), meta (the sublime new name of Facebook’s parent company), cisgender (gender assigned at birth), wakes up (accused of politics and political correctness) and murraya (tropical tree and word that won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee for 14-year-old Zaila Avangard).
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