The most important word in Merriam-Webster 2020 is not shocking: epidemic


NEW YORK (AP) – If you chose a word that rose to the highest in 2020, what would that word be?

Ding, ding, ding: Merriam-Webster announces “epidemic” on Monday as the word of the year 2020.

“It’s probably not a big shock,” Peter Sokolowski, editor-in-chief of Merriam-Webster, told the Associated Press.

“The big news often has a technical soybean associated with it, and in this case, the pandemic is not only technical, but has become commonplace. That’s probably the word we’re going to refer to for this period in the future, ”he said.

The word became urgent in March when the coronavirus crisis was called a pandemic, but on Merriam-Webster.com in early January and then in February, when the first U.S. deaths and flights broke out on cruise ships, began to spread upward.

On March 11, when the World Health Organization declared the new coronavirus epidemic a worldwide epidemic, searches at the site of the epidemic he spiked mightily. Interest in the word remained significantly throughout the year, Sokolowski said.

Significantly, Sokolowski means that the number of epidemiological inquiries on March 11 was 115,806% higher than the number found on the same day last year.

With pandemic, Latin and Greek roots, a combination of “pan” for everyone and “demos” for people or the population. The latter is the same root of “democracy,” Sokolowski noted. The word epidemic dates back to the mid-1600s, which is widely used in the medical text of the 1660s as “universal,” more precisely, a disease, he said.

It happened after the plagues of the Middle Ages, Sokolowski said.

It attributes search traffic to the epidemic not entirely to searchers who didn’t know what it meant, but also to those who hunt for more details, inspiration, or convenience.

“We see the word love being searched around for Valentine’s Day and the word cornucopia on Thanksgiving,” Sokolowski said. “We see a word like surreal spitting when a moment of national tragedy or shock occurs. The idea that dictionaries are the beginning of putting thoughts in order.

In March, Merriam-Webster quickly acted to add and update words about the pandemic on its website. While “coronavirus” has been on the dictionary for decades, “COVID-19” was created in February. Thirty-four days later, Merriam-Webster made it available online, and along with a few dozen entries, the health emergency was reviewed.

“It’s the shortest time we’ve ever seen that the word came out of minting,” Sokolowski said. – The word was so urgent.

The coronavirus was literally among the most advanced of the year when it jumped into the mainstream. Quarantine, asymptomatic, mamba, kraken, defund, antebellum, regardless of icon, schadenfreude, and malarkey also ran based on the search spikes around each event.

Of particular interest to recipients such as lexicographer Sokolowski, quarantine. With Italian roots, during the black death of the 1300s, the period during which a new ship arriving in port had to wait unexpectedly to prevent disease was used. The “quarrel” in quarantine comes from 40, for the required 40 days.

The spikes of the mamba occurred after the death of Kobe Bryant in January, whose nickname was Black Mamba. The crackle was visited en masse in July after Seattle’s new National Hockey League franchise chose the mythical sea monster as its name to encourage fans.

The name change of the rural group, Lady Antebellum, to Lady A sparked interest in the dictionary in June, while the malarkey received a boost from elected president Joe Biden, who is happy to use the word. The icon was at the forefront and focus after the deaths of U.S. High Representative John Lewis and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The Merriam-Webster site has approximately 40 million unique users per month and 100 million pageviews per month.