(SEMANA.com) The Merriam-Webster dictionary on the internet announced that “vaccine” is the word of the year 2021, after registering significant interest in a term that it said went beyond the medical dimension to dominate the social debate in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic.
“Few words can express so much in a space of time,” said the famous dictionary in a post on its website.
“The word vaccine has meant much more than medicine in 2021. For many, it has symbolized a possible return to pre-pandemic life. But it has also been at the center of debates about personal choice, political affiliation, employment regulations, school safety, health care inequality, and much more,” Merriam-Webster noted.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic, which has caused at least 5.1 million deaths worldwide since the first report of the disease in China in December 2019, accelerated the development of a new type of immunization: messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines.
Merriam-Webster said this involved revising and expanding its definition of the word “vaccine,” which it did in May to incorporate new technology that triggers the immune response in the human body.
The first doses of the virus vaccine were administered in December 2020 in the United States, where a mass immunization campaign was launched in early 2021. The dictionary said that this year Internet searches for the word “vaccine” increased by 601% compared to 2020. But “the prominence of the word in our lives” is even more evident when comparing 2021 with 2019, when inquiries increased by 1,048%, it added.
The word “vaccine” is derived from the Latin vacca (cow) because the term was originally used to refer to inoculation with doses of cowpox to protect humans against smallpox. Merriam-Webster said that this word is relatively recent in English, dating back to the 1880s.
The dictionary also listed the 10 most searched words of 2021. The first is “insurgency”, to describe the violence of January 6 in the United States Congress. It is followed by “perseverance”, after the name of the NASA robot that landed on Mars in February, and third is woke, a term that refers to being aware of social inequality, both in relation to race and gender. and sexual orientation. “Nomad”, “infrastructure”, “cicada” and “meta” are also among the most consulted words this year in Merriam-Webster ‘online’.
The company takes into account the statistics of the searches that users make on its website, one of the most popular in the United States for language doubts. According to what was reported by this firm, at the beginning of February 2020 the increase in searches for the word pandemic reached 1,621% and in April it was already 4,000%. The Merrian-Webster ad has become traditional and in previous versions the word ‘they’ was ‘awarded’ in 2019 and ‘justice’ in 2018.
The real number of deaths from covid-19 worldwide is surely higher than 5 million people, a count established from the daily official balances of each country.
If the excess mortality related to covid is taken as a reference, the balance could be two or three times higher, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Using this method, The Economist magazine estimated the death toll at 17 million people.
Hence, millions of people have consulted about the vaccine.
This article was originally published in Spanish at Semana.com and translated by the Q.