‘Pandemic’ named Merriam-Webster word of the year for 2020

STATEN ISLAND, NY – It has been a year of lockdowns, business and school closures, face masks and social distancing amid the coronavirus (COVID-19).


It is not surprising that Merriam webster chose the word pandemic as the word of the year for 2020, as it continues to be used during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Sometimes a single word defines a time, and it is fitting that in this exceptional – and exceptionally difficult – year a single word immediately emerged as we examined the data that determines what our word of the year will be,” Merriam- Webster said on his website.

The word is defined as “an epidemic of a disease which occurs over a large geographical area (such as several countries or continents) and generally affects a significant proportion of the population”.

It was chosen as the word of the year based on a statistical analysis of the extremely high numbered search words in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, while also showing a significant increase in traffic year-on-year. other.

According to Merriam-Webster, the first major spike in dictionary searches for a pandemic occurred on February 3, the same day the United States’ first COVID-19 patient was released from a hospital in Seattle, Washington. On that day, the pandemic was wanted 1.621% more than it had been a year ago.

Close inspection of dictionary data shows searches for the word began to increase steadily from January 20 – the date of the first positive cases of COVID-19 in the United States. At the beginning of March, the pandemic was sought at 4,000% on average compared to 2019 levels.

March 11, when the World Health Organization officially declared that COVID-19 qualifies as a pandemic, was the day the pandemic saw the biggest spike in dictionary traffic this year – showing an increase of 115 806% from searches that day in 2019..

“What is most striking about this word is that it has remained high in our searches ever since, remaining near the top of our word list for the past 10 months – even when other searches related terms, such as coronavirus and COVID-19, have declined, ”Merriam-Webster said on her website.

Here are the other big words of the year:

1. Coronavirus

According to Merriam-Webster, this is a rare case of a word shifting from medical jargon to the everyday vocabulary of the general public. While not a new word, the coronavirus exploded in research within a matter of weeks. The largest search peak occurred on March 19; and overall, the coronavirus has been searched for 162,551% more this year than in 2019.

2. Refund

“Protests in response to the murder of blacks by police officers punctuated the year, and one word of these protests increased in research from June: defund”Merriam-Webster wrote.

The word defund has been at the heart of many conversations about how to tackle police violence, and many activists have called for police funding. It was consulted 6,059% more in 2020 than in 2019.

3. Mamba

After Kobe Bryant, along with nine others, including one of Bryant’s daughters, died in a helicopter crash, dictionary users searched for mamba, a word strongly associated with the player. Bryant was called “Black Mamba” – a nickname the player had chosen for himself more than a decade ago. Overall, mamba was viewed 934% more frequently in 2020 than it was in 2019.

4. Kraken

In July, the new Seattle National Hockey League (NHL) franchise chose kraken as their team name. Searches for the word were up 128,000% on July 23, when the name was announced. This also increased again in searches in mid-November, wrote Merriam-Webster, when lawyer Sidney Powell said she would “release the Kraken,” which in this case was intended to present evidence that the votes for President Donald Trump had been suppressed in the presidential election. .

5. Quarantine

Amid the global pandemic, the word quarantine sparked interest before stay-at-home orders became a reality in the United States. The quarantine was consulted 1,856% more frequently in 2020 than in 2019.

6. Antebellum

The word antebellum has been searched more significantly this year for two reasons in 2020. The first jump was in June, when the musical trio announced a name change from Lady Antebellum to Lady A. The second increase came with the September release of a film that uses the word in its title.

Both events resulted in an 885% increase in searches year over year.

7. Schadenfreude

This word saw a big spike in searches in March when news of the college admissions scandal broke. But its biggest peak came on October 2, when President Trump contracted the novel coronavirus and the media used the word in his headlines. Such uses have spiked 24,800% from searches last year.

8. Asymptomatic

Another word linked to the ongoing pandemic that has seen peaks was asymptomatic – one of the virus’ most difficult characteristics that people without symptoms can be contagious. The word has been searched 1.688% more this year than usual.

9. Independently

The word gained a spot because searches increased significantly in July, up 464%, when actress Jamie Lee Curtis claimed on Twitter that Merriam-Webster had just entered the word. Curtis was wrong, according to Merriam-Webster, as the word irregardless has been in the dictionary since 1934.

10. Icon

After Representative John Lewis died in July and then Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September, the word icon has been used to describe individuals. The word saw a significant increase in searches in both cases, averaging 2,205% more than last year.

11. Malarkey

President-elect Joe Biden has used the word several times over the years – most recently in 2020 when he used it in a presidential debate on October 22, when he climbed 3,200% from to last year. He also used the word during the vice-presidential debate with Paul Ryan in October 2012 and again during the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

The word of the year is a quantitative measure of interest in a particular word. The company reviews the past 12 months and combines an analysis of words that have seen an increase in the previous year with cases of intense spikes in interest due to news events.


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