The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s announcement told,With an expanded definition to reflect the times, Merriam-Webster has declared an omnipresent truth as its 2021 word of the year: vaccine.“This was a word that was extremely high in our data every single day in 2021,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large.
He said, “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”.
The selection follows “vax” as word of the year from the folks who publish the Oxford English Dictionary. And it comes after Merriam-Webster chose “pandemic” as tops in lookups last year on its online site.Sokolowski said, “The pandemic was the gun going off and now we have the aftereffects”.
Compared to 2019, when there was little urgency or chatter about vaccines, Merriam-Webster logged an increase of 1,048 % in lookups this year. Sokolowski said ,The word “vaccine” wasn’t birthed in a day, or due to a single pandemic.
The first known use stretches back to 1882 but references pop up earlier related to fluid from cowpox pustules used in inoculations,.It was borrowed from the New Latin “vaccina,” which goes back to Latin’s feminine “vaccinus,” meaning “of or from a cow.”
The Latin for cow is “vacca,” a word that might be akin to the Sanskrit “vasa,” according to Merriam-Webster.Inoculation, on the other hand, dates to 1714, in one sense referring to the act of injecting an “inoculum.”
Merriam-Webster added to its online entry for “vaccine” to cover all the talk of mRNA vaccines, or messenger vaccines such as those for Covid-19 developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.Searches for the word increased by 61,000% over 2020, Sokolowksi said.
The name was thought up by Alexander Mather, a 14-year-old seventh-grader at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. He participated in an essay contest organized by NASA. He was one of 28,000 K-12 students to submit entries. The word had its moment with the 2020 release of the film “Nomadland.” It went on to win three Oscars in April 2021, including best picture, director and actress .