“Vaccine” chosen as word of the year 2021 by Merriam-Webster

NEW YORK (AP) – With a definition expanded to reflect the times, Merriam-Webster has declared a pervasive truth as her word of the year 2021: vaccine.

“It was a word that was extremely high in our data every day in 2021,” Peter Sokolowski, editor-in-chief of Merriam-Webster, told The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s announcement.

“It really represents two different stories. One is the history of science, which is the remarkable speed with which vaccines have been developed. But there are also debates about politics, politics and political affiliation. It’s a word that carries these two huge stories, ”he said.

The selection follows “vax” as the word of the year for publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary. And it comes after Merriam-Webster singled out “pandemic” as the top search last year on her live site.

“The pandemic was the shot and now we have the aftermath,” Sokolowski said.

At Merriam-Webster, search for “vaccine” was up 601% from 2020, when the first US injection was given in New York in December after rapid development and months of speculation and discussion over effectiveness. The world’s first jab took place earlier this month in the UK.

Compared to 2019, where there was little urgency or chatter about vaccines, Merriam-Webster saw a 1,048% increase in searches this year. Debates over inequitable distribution, vaccine warrants and recalls have kept interest high, Sokolowski said. The same is true of the reluctance to face vaccines and the friction regarding vaccine passports.

The word “vaccine” was not born overnight or because of a single pandemic. The first known use dates back to 1882, but earlier references appear to the cowpox pustule fluid used in inoculations, Sokolowski said. It was borrowed from the new Latin “vaccina”, which dates back to the feminine Latin “vaccinus”, which means “of or of a cow”. Latin for cow is “vacca”, a word that could be related to Sanskrit “vasa”, according to Merriam-Webster.

The inoculation, for its part, dates from 1714, referring in a sense to the act of injecting an “inoculum”.

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

While other dictionary companies choose the words of the year by committee, Merriam-Webster bases their selection on research data, paying particular attention to spikes and, more recently, the increase in searches of year after year after removing conifers. The company has been awarding a Word of the Year since 2008. Among its finalists in the 2021 Word Biography:

INSURRECTION: The interest was motivated by the Deadly siege of January 6 on the United States Capitol. Arrests continue, as do congressional hearings into the attack on supporters of President Donald Trump. Some of Trump’s allies have resisted subpoenas, including Steve Bannon.

Searches for the word are up 61,000% from 2020, Sokolowksi said.

INFRASTRUCTURE: President Joe Biden was able to deliver what Trump often talked about but never achieved: a promulgation of a bipartite bill on infrastructure. When Biden offered help with broadband access, senior care and preschool, the conversation changed not only roads and bridges, but “figurative infrastructure,” Sokolowski said. .

“Many people have asked: what is infrastructure if it is not made of steel or concrete? Infrastructure, in Latin, means under the structure, ”he said.

PERSEVERANCE: This is the name of NASA’s last Martian rover. It landed on February 18, 2021. “Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to the Red Planet, with a name that embodies NASA’s passion and our nation’s ability to meet and overcome challenges. “said the space agency.

The name was coined by Alexander Mather, a 14-year-old seventh-grader at Lake Braddock High School in Burke, Virginia. He took part in an essay competition organized by NASA. He was one of 28,000 K-12 students to submit nominations.

NOMADIC: The word had its time with the release in 2020 of the film “Nomadland”. He went to win three Oscars in April 2021, including Best Picture, director (Chloé Zhao) and actress (Frances McDormand). Zhao became the first woman of color to win the award for best director.

AP screenwriter Jake Coyle called the independent success “a frank meditation on loneliness, grief and courage.” He wrote that he “struck a chord in a year ravaged by the pandemic. It made an unlikely Oscar champion: a film about people who gravitate to the fringes took center stage.

Other words in Merriam-Webster’s Top 10: Cicada (we had an invasion), guardian (the Cleveland Indians became the Cleveland Guardians), meta (the new premium name for Facebook’s parent company), cisgender (a gender identity that matches her assigned sex at birth), awake (charged with politics and political correctness) and murraya (a tropical tree and the word that won the Scripps National Spelling Bee 2021 for Zaila Avant-garde, 14 years old).

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