You could have seen this one coming from a mile or 100 miles away.
The dictionary company Merriam-Webster came out with what they call the “word of the year,” and in a not-so-shocking move, they chose “ vaccine” to represent 2021.
Here’s what editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski said about this relatively safe and predictable decision.
“This was a word that was extremely high in our data every single day in 2021. It really represents two different stories. One is the science story, which is this remarkable speed with which the vaccines were developed. But there’s also the debates regarding policy, politics and political affiliation. It’s one word that carries these two huge stories.”
It would appear that every major dictionary publisher is obsessed with anything related to the coronavirus. Back in 2020, Merriam-Webster drew headlines for choosing “pandemic” as the word of the year.
The Oxford English Dictionary went with “vax” as their word of the year in 2020, and while they haven’t announced their special word for 2021, you can safely assume it will not veer far from these other choices.
Merriam-Webster tracks data on what words are being looked up on their site, so there’s a little bit of science involved in this decision. They said there was an increase of 1,048% in lookups of the word vaccination in 2021. Merriam-Webster is the only dictionary company that incorporates data from searches into their selection of word of the year.
The others rely on a committee.
Here are some of the runner-ups for word of the year in 2021.
Insurrection. Infrastructure. Perseverance. Nomad.
Let’s hope 2022 things can go back to normal, where a “word of the year” can be a little more whimsical.