Merriam-Webster has chosen pandemic as its Word of the Year for 2020.
According to the dictionary and online publishing company, the word’s official meaning is “an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the population.”
Due to COVID-19, Merriam-Webster noticed a significant year-over-year increase in the search for the word, mainly beginning on January 20 — the same month that the first coronavirus-positive patient in Canada was discovered in Toronto.
According to Merriam-Webster, when the World Health Organization officially declared on March 11 “that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” the word pandemic saw the single largest spike in dictionary traffic in 2020, showing an increase of 115,806% over lookups on that day in 2019.
The word has remained high in 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.”
Shortlisted words for this year included coronavirus, defund, mamba, Kraken, quarantine, antebellum, schadenfreude, asymptomatic, irregardless, icon, and malarkey.