The word "pandemic" and the concept behind the term have ruled life on planet Earth for almost 10 months now, so it comes as no surprise that both Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com have selected it as the official word of the year.
According to both companies, the term was the most searched-for across their sites and also "reshaped the language we use daily."
Specifically, Merriam-Webster's official press release about the news calls out March 11 as the day boasting the "single largest spike in dictionary traffic in 2020, showing an increase of 11,806% over lookups on that day in 2019." That happens to be the date in which the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. "What is most striking about this word is that it has remained high in our lookups ever since, staying near the top of our word list for the past ten months—even as searches for other related terms, such as 'coronavirus' and 'COVID-19,' have waned," reads the press release.
Needless to say, related words the likes of "quarantine," "asymptomatic" and—duh—"coronavirus" also defined search trends on Merriam-Webster. "COVID-19" was actually officially added to the dictionary about a month into the pandemic.
Dictionary.com noticed similar user behavior. "[On March 11], when COVID-19 had then only taken 4,291 lives around the world, searches for 'pandemic' skyrocketed 13,575% on [the site] compared to 2019," reads the company's official press release. "'Pandemic' joined a cluster of other terms that users searched in massive numbers, whether to learn an unfamiliar word used during a government briefing or to process the swirl of media headlines: 'asymptomatic,' 'CDC,' 'coronavirus,' 'furlough,' 'nonessential,' 'quarantine' and 'sanitizer,' to spotlight a few."
What will perhaps interest readers even more is each company's full list of popular 2020 words, which virtually function as recaps of an incredibly odd, surely history-defining, year. The words "defund," "Mamba," "malarkey," "contact tracing," "PPE" and, of course, "Karen" made each list. We've been through a lot in the past few months, now, haven't we?
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