Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2021 Is ‘Vaccine’

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Even the dictionary knows you’ve been “doing your own research.”

After a year of normalizing phrases like “shots in arms” and “COVID toe,” Merriam-Webster has named “vaccine” the word of 2021.

“The story is about much more than medicine,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, said in a statement.

“It was at the center of debates about personal choice, political affiliation, professional regulations, school safety, healthcare inequity, and so much more. The biggest science event of the year quickly became the biggest political debate in our country, and the word at the center of both stories is vaccine. Few words can express so much about one moment in time.”

“Vaccine” follows “pandemic” as the word of the year, starting a hopefully short-lived trend.

Other words of the year over the past decade include “austerity,” “surreal” and “they.”

Lookups of the word “vaccine” skyrocketed more than 1,000% this year compared to 2019, when flu shots and school requirements for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine were just another thing to check off on the to-do list.

Runners-up for 2021 include insurrection, infrastructure, perseverance, nomad, cicada, guardian, meta, cisgender, woke and murraya.