“Vaccine” is Merriam-Webster’s 2021 word of the year. “Pandemic” reigned supreme last year, which was fitting at the time. Merriam-Webster noted that the word holds significance both as a medical term and a vehicle for ideological conflict.
Merriam-Webster released a statement about the new word of the year – “For many, the word symbolized a possible return to the lives we led before the pandemic. But it was also at the center of debates about personal choice, political affiliation, professional regulations, school safety, healthcare inequality, and so much more.” “Vaccine” was one of the top looked-up words at Merriam-Webster.com. Lookups increased 601% from 2020 and went up 1048% from 2019.
This percentage shows interest in the word and how that interest increased during the pandemic. In addition, lookups of “vaccine” jumped 535% back in August. Merriam-Webster says the increased lookups were due to “discussions about policy, approval, and vaccination rates — rather than the vaccine itself — sent people to the dictionary.” The lookup increase made even more sense because NY and CA mandated vaccines for healthcare workers, the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine, and President Biden announced plans for booster shots.