Pandemic is top word of 2020: Merriam-Webster

Pandemic is top word of 2020: Merriam-Webster

The popularity is attributed not so much owing to the people who were oblivious to the meaning of the word, as it is to the people who were curious and wanted to research further.

Photo Credit: The Week Photo Credit: The Week

As 2020 comes to an end, Merriam-Webster, the famous American dictionary, has announced its word of the year. Quite unsurprisingly, the word happens to be "pandemic."

With over 6.3 crore people infected across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has dominated people's lives around the world for the most part of this year, confining them at home.

"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," said Merriam-Webster, adding that the word encapsulates the eventful year of 2020.

People had started looking up the word online starting March 11 itself, when the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. Peter Sokolowski, Editor-at-Large for Merriam-Webster declared that searches for the word were 1,15,806 per cent higher than look-ups experienced on the same date last year.

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Explaining the roots of the word, Sokolowski said that the word is an amalgam of pan (for all) and demos (for the people/population), with roots in Greek and Latin. The latter word, Sokolowski added, is also the root for the word 'democracy'.

He attributes the lookup traffic for the word not so much to people who were oblivious to the meaning of the word, as he did to people who would have been curious and wanted to research further. "We see that the word love is looked up around Valentine's Day and the word cornucopia is looked up at Thanksgiving," Mr. Sokolowski said.

As of today, the Merriam-Webster site has about 100 million monthly views and hosts about 40 million unique monthly users.

Also read: Chinese researchers say coronavirus originated in India in summer 2019