Merriam-Webster Announces Word of the Year for 2021: Vaccine

People gather at City Hall to protest vaccine mandates on August 09, 2021 in New York City
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary recently announced its Word of the Year for 2021, which is “vaccine.”

“In everyday use, words are useful tools that communicate assertions, ideas, aspirations, and uncertainties. But they can also become vehicles for ideological conflict,” the website read, claiming that was what happened to the term “vaccine” throughout this year.

The “promising medical solution” to the coronavirus pandemic evolved into a political argument and “source of division,” according to the article.

“The biggest science story of our time quickly became the biggest debate in our country, and the word at the center of both stories is vaccine,” it continued:

Hopes for cures and treatments of COVID-19 began as soon as the disease began to spread. Research into a new kind of vaccine containing messenger RNA, or mRNA, genetic material rather than an inactivated form of the virus was accelerated. After decades of studies conducted for application to diseases such as influenza, Ebola, and rabies, this new type of mRNA vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus was rapidly developed, tested, and manufactured for broad use, with the first doses being administered in the U.S. in December 2020.

Use of a vaccine that causes an immune response in “an entirely new way” required the online dictionary to update and expand its entry for the term.

The definition of the word read, “A preparation that is administered (as by injection) to stimulate the body’s immune response against a specific infectious agent or disease,” according to the site.

Interest in the definition grew over the past year, and searches for “vaccine” increased 601 percent year over year from 2020, the Merriam-Webster article stated.

The website also listed the words insurrection, perseverance, woke, infrastructure, and cisgender as having experienced a rise in lookups.

In September 2020, the dictionary apparently updated its definition of “female” to include “having a gender identity that is opposite of male,” which effectively erased the concept of biological sex, according to Breitbart News.


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