SPRINGFIELD (CBS) — Merriam-Webster is naming “pandemic” as its word of the year. The Springfield-based dictionary’s pick was an easy one for 2020, given how the coronavirus pandemic has dominated life this year.
“Sometimes a single word defines an era, and it’s fitting that in this exceptional—and exceptionally difficult—year, a single word came immediately to the fore as we examined the data that determines what our Word of the Year will be,” Merriam-Webster said about its choice.
Judging from the reaction on social media, this year’s pick did not come as a shock to anyone.
One would expect. https://t.co/5AuAWMXNrb
— Molly McPherson, APR (@MollyMcPherson) November 30, 2020
The Merriam-Webster word of the year is ‘Pandemic’, and this is probably the least-surprising thing about 2020. https://t.co/44EYuqW3sS
— Karys Belger (@KarysBelger) November 30, 2020
Y’all really went for the obvious choice, huh? https://t.co/ICnK2fkoEI
— micah caswell (@MicahRylee) November 30, 2020
Merriam-Webster said it first noticed a big spike in searches for pandemic on Feb. 3, when the first U.S. coronavirus patient was released from a Seattle hospital. The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic on March 11, sending online traffic for the definition up 115,806% over lookups from the same day in 2019.
“What is most striking about this word is that it has remained high in our lookups ever since, staying near the top of our word list for the past ten months—even as searches for other related terms, such as coronavirus and COVID-19, have waned,” Merriam-Webster said.
The runners-up were coronavirus, defund, mamba, kraken, quarantine, antebellum, schadenfreude, asymptomatic, irregardless, icon and malarkey – a reference to President-Elect Joe Biden’s favorite expression.