It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the word “pandemic” was chosen as the word of the year 2020 at dictionary.com. This seems appropriate considering the toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on the world since March.
The Web site published its Word of the Year on Monday, highlighting the impact COVID-19 has had this year and the average 1,000 percent increase in the importance of the pandemic in searches.
” With more than 60 million confirmed cases, the pandemic has claimed over one million lives worldwide and continues to reach new highs. The pandemic has caused social and economic disruption of historic proportions and magnitude, and is having a global impact on all sectors of society – not to mention its emotional and psychological toll. All other events in 2020, from the protests for racial justice to the heated presidential elections, were largely shaped by the pandemic. Despite its hardships, the pandemic inspired the best of our humanity: resilience and resourcefulness in the face of struggle. And we thought 2019 was an existential year,” dictionary.com wrote on its website.
Defined as “a disease spread across a country, a continent or the entire world,” dictionary.com noted that the word “pandemic” was the most popular word on the site not only on February 3, the day the first COVID-19 patient was discharged from hospital in the U.S., but also on March 11, the day the World Health Organization officially proclaimed COVID-19 a global pandemic. The search for the word “pandemic” jumped to more than 13,575 percent at the time.
“When the pandemic in 2020 turned life upside down, it also dramatically changed our language and required a completely new vocabulary to talk about our new reality. It defined much of the work we have done at Dictionary.com this year to meet the urgent need for information and explanation in the midst of a rapidly changing crisis,” continued dictionary.com.
The word “pandemic” also brought with it a number of words that were not normally part of our everyday language. Words such as “asymptomatic”, “frontliner”, “quarantine”, “pod”, “superspreader”, “herd immunity” and “leave of absence” were also increasingly used and sought after, which greatly expanded our linguistic glossary and will shape the context in which people talk about pandemics in the future.
“Pandemic” was also referred to by Merriam-Webster as the word of the year. The definition website also cited the “significant increase in traffic volume from year to year” as one of the reasons why “pandemic” was the top word for 2020, in addition to the way the word “linked the global medical emergency with the political response and our personal experience of it all.