Merriam-Webster's 2020 Word of the Year is one the world likely never wants to hear again.
That word, of course, is pandemic—defined as "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."
For anyone who's lived in 2020, though, there's no need to use it as an example in a sentence because we all already have been for months. Whether on TV, the Internet or in texts to socially distant friends, the coronavirus pandemic has undeniably dominated our thoughts and conversation in 2020. And, on Monday, Nov. 30, Merriam-Webster officially declared it the word of the year.
"Sometimes a single word defines an era, and it's fitting that in this exceptional—and exceptionally difficult—year, a single word came immediately to the fore as we examined the data that determines what our Word of the Year will be," an announcement from the dictionary read. "Based upon a statistical analysis of words that are looked up in extremely high numbers in our online dictionary while also showing a significant year-over-year increase in traffic, Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year for 2020 is pandemic."
According to Merriam-Webster, they saw dictionary lookups for the word continue to increase from Jan. 20, the first positive case in the United States, to Feb. 3, the day that the first United States patient with COVID-19 was released from the hospital, and on to March 11, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic.
"This is the day that pandemic saw the single largest spike in dictionary traffic in 2020, showing an increase of 115,806% over lookups on that day in 2019," Merriam-Webster explained in its announcement. "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."
In addition to pandemic, the dictionary also revealed 10 more of its top-searched terms of the year, including defund, mamba, kraken, quarantine, antebellum, schadenfreude, asymptomatic, irregardless, icon and malarkey.
See Merriam-Webster's breakdown of all the words here.