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‘Vaccine’ Is Merriam-Webster’s Word Of The Year 2021, Here’s How They Updated Their Definition


In May, Merriam-Webster revised and expanded its definition of “vaccine.” Here is how anti-vaxxers reacted with conspiracy theories.
Merriam-Webster has announced its 2021 Word of the Year and, surprise, it’s not “floccinaucinihilipilification.” No, instead, the winner is the word “vaccine,” which beat out over 470,000 other entries in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. In the process, “vaccine” edged out the following runners-up: “insurrection”, “perseverance”, “woke”, “nomad”, “infrastructure”, “cicada”, “Murraya”, “cis-gender”, “guardian”, and “meta.” Here’s a tweet with the announcement: After the announcement, some wondered whether anti-vaccination folks would as a result try to “cancel” the dictionary: Now, Merriam-Webster, Inc. knows words. They have the best words. And the worst ones too. In fact, they’ve tried to have as many real words as feasible. They’ve published dictionaries since the 1800’s, including offering a free online dictionary and thesaurus for the past two decades. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary has been one of the go-to locations when looking for the definition of a word, such as when someone calls you a “douchebag” and you’re wondering whether to say “thank you.” According to Merriam-Webster, lookups of the word “vaccine” in 2021 jumped by 601% from 2020 and 1048% from 2019. In fact, August of this year alone saw a 535% increase. Those are substantial rises given the fact that people typically don’t look up words that they know already. For example, normally, you don’t have to look up the word “toilet” and “asparagus” every day to remind yourself how to use each and that the two traditionally should be used next to each other. Therefore, something must have prompted such rises in 2021. Gee, what could have it been? Could it possibly be due to the fact that we’ve been in the middle of a freaking global emergency, the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic? Could it be that Covid-19 vaccines are a major key to stopping this pandemic? This year marked the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines in many countries. And not surprisingly a cow-dung-load of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media soon followed these roll-outs. In fact, some of the anti-vaxxer messaging has even claimed that the Covid-19 vaccines aren’t actually vaccines, as I covered in September for Forbes. This may have further fueled dictionary searches for the word “vaccine,” including those wanting to confirm the definition of the word to themselves and those wanting to confirm the definition to others.

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