Merriam-Webster Settles on 2020 Word of the Year

By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2020 7:47 AM CST
Merriam-Webster Reveals Word of the Year
The word 'pandemic' is displayed in a dictionary. Merriam-Webster on Monday announced 'pandemic' as its 2020 word of the year.   (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

Last year, Merriam-Webster picked "they" as its word of the year. In 2020, people had other things on their minds. The dictionary announced Monday that "pandemic" is the new word of the year. One stat explains why: Lookups of the word on the dictionary's website spiked 115,806% on March 11 when compared to the previous year, editor at large Peter Sokolowski tells the AP. The selection "probably isn't a big shock," he adds. "In this case, the word pandemic is not just technical but has become general. It's probably the word by which we'll refer to this period in the future."

Runners-up were quarantine, asymptomatic, mamba, kraken, defund, antebellum, irregardless, icon, schadenfreude, and malarkey. Also of note: "COVID-19" was coined in February and was officially up on Merriam-Webster's website in a mere 34 days, which Sokolowski says is a record. Elsewhere, Oxford's word of the year also had a coronavirus theme, though the site couldn't settle on just one. Collins, like the AP, picked a single winner for 2020. (More Merriam-Webster stories.)

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