Merriam-Webster Picks ‘Vaccine’ as Word of the Year


By now, after nearly two years of COVID-19, you probably hate to hear the word ‘vaccine.’ So I present a timely post about that little word.

After a year in which the COVID-19 vaccine became a hot-button topic, Merriam-Webster selected vaccine as its word of the year. And you hoped we’d would no longer need to talk about it by now!

There’s an interesting story behind the selection.

Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large, Peter Sokolowski, told The Associated Press it’s a word that carries 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,” he said.

It’s one word, he said, that carries two “huge” stories.

Vaccine took center stage in 2021

Thanks to President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, a vaccine to prevent serious illness and death from the disease received top priority. The government’s website describes it as “a federal effort that supported multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates to speed up development.”

It clearly worked. That has not stopped some COVID-19 deniers from avoiding the vaccine at all costs. They either don’t believe COVID-19 is a real illness, don’t believe the vaccine is safe, or refuse to take it because they’re being told to rather than asked to do so.

You can debate which of the three you find the most ridiculous.

I find even more ridiculous those who won’t take the vaccine but yet praise Trump for its creation. That line of thought makes the least sense to me. Why praise someone for creating something you think is fake? That, of course, is a topic for a different post.

Earlier this month, the Oxford English Dictionary selected vax as its word of the year. Vax served well over the past year, appearing as a noun and an adjective (as in being vaxxed). Since I received my booster shot, I guess I’m now triple vaxxed.

Vaccines aren’t going anywhere; neither are anti-vaxxers

Experts insist we’ll likely be dealing with COVID for years to come. It has already evolved to enough variants, including the omicron, that it’ll probably never fully go away. So if you hate hearing about vaccines, you’ll hate this even more.

Over the weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, appeared on Face the Nation. He said he does not think we will eradicate COVID. We’ve only managed to eradicate one infection of mankind, he said. That infection is smallpox.

I expect we’ll take a COVID shot every year just like the flu shot. I say we…but I have no problem with either. So I guess I will be getting both.

In 2021, Merriam-Webster saw spike in ‘vaccine’ searches

How much of a spike? Well, the dictionary said it saw a 601% increase in searches for vaccine compared with 2020. When you compare with pre-pandemic 2019, that number jumps to 1,048%.

I suppose you can’t argue with numbers like that.

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year in 2020 was pandemic.

I think I see a pattern here!

It’d be great if 2022’s word of the year could be cure.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.