Language experts at the Merriam-Webster online dictionary chose ‘pandemic’ as the word of 2020.
“Sometimes a single word defines an era, and it is only fair that in this exceptional year—and exceptionally difficult—a single word will immediately come to the fore as we examine the data that determines what our Word of the Year will be. According to a statistical analysis of the words that are searched in our online dictionary in extremely high numbers, and which also show a significant increase in traffic in annual terms, the Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year of 2020 is pandemic.”
On February 3, when the first COVID-19 patient in the US was discharged from a Seattle hospital, searches for the term ‘pandemic’ on the Merriam-Webster.com website exceeded the previous year’s figure by 1,621%. In early March, searches exceeded 2019 levels by an average of 4,000%.
Since March 11, the World Health Organization has classified the COVID-19 disease caused by the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus detected at the end of 2019 as a pandemic.
Throughout the world, more than 62.67 million cases of infection with the pathogen have been registered, including more than 1.45 million deaths and some 40.07 million recoveries, according to Johns Hopkins University.The online dictionary defines ‘pandemic’ as “an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area [such as multiple countries or continents] and generally affects a significant proportion of the population.”
In 2019, Merriam-Webster experts chose “they” as their word of the year, increasingly used as a third-person singular pronoun in relation to people whose gender identity is non-binary.