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Pandemic Becomes Merriam-Webster’s Word Of The Year




Merriam-Webster announced that their 2020 word of the year is “pandemic.” This decision is based on statistical analysis that shows the word “pandemic” was one of the most searched words of 2020.


At the top of 2020, nobody could have envisioned the way in which the word “pandemic” would take such precedence across the globe. When COVID-19 began to devastate the world in March, it changed the course of history as we know it.


Merriem- Webster’s editor at large, Peter Solowski is not surprised at the word of the year. Solowski said, “That probably isn't a big shock -- The word took on urgent specificity in March, when the coronavirus crisis was designated a pandemic, but it started to trend up on Merriam-Webster.com as early January and again in February when the first U.S. deaths and outbreaks on cruise ships occurred.”


Apparently, when coronavirus became a “global pandemic” the word pandemic saw a spike in website searches and interest in the word remained significant throughout the year. Searches for pandemic on March 11 were 115,806 percent higher than lookups experienced on the same date last year.


According to Merriam-Webster, searches for words in relation to the pandemic such as “aerosols”, “contact tracing”, “social distancing” and “herd immunity”, as well as therapeutic drugs, tests and vaccines saw a rise in website search activity.


Month over month, lookups for pandemic were up more than 1,000%. For about half the year, the word was in the top 10% of all lookups. This means people still needed to know what exactly the word “pandemic” meant, well after the initial impact of COVID-19.


Merriam-Webster’s definition of a pandemic: an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the population


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