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Merriam-Webster’s top word of 2020 not a shocker: pandemic

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NEW YORK (AP) — Should you have been to decide on a phrase that rose above most in 2020, which phrase would it not be?

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Ding, ding, ding: Merriam-Webster on Monday introduced “pandemic” as its 2020 phrase of the 12 months.

“That in all probability isn’t a giant shock,” Peter Sokolowski, editor at massive for Merriam-Webster, instructed The Related Press.

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“Typically the large information story has a technical phrase that’s related to it and on this case, the phrase pandemic is not only technical however has develop into common. It’s in all probability the phrase by which we’ll check with this era sooner or later,” he mentioned.

The phrase took on pressing specificity in March, when the coronavirus disaster was designated a pandemic, but it surely began to pattern up on Merriam-Webster.com as early January and once more in February when the primary U.S. deaths and outbreaks on cruise ships occurred.

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On March 11, when the World Well being Group declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a worldwide pandemic, lookups on the location for pandemic spiked massively. Web site curiosity for the phrase has remained considerably excessive by way of the 12 months, Sokolowski mentioned.

By big, Sokolowski means searches for pandemic on March 11 have been 115,806% increased than lookups skilled on the identical date final 12 months.

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Pandemic, with roots in Latin and Greek, is a mix of “pan,” for all, and “demos,” for folks or inhabitants. The latter is similar root of “democracy,” Sokolowski famous. The phrase pandemic dates to the mid-1600s, used broadly for “common” and extra particularly to illness in a medical textual content within the 1660s, he mentioned.

That was after the plagues of the Center Ages, Sokolowski mentioned.

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He attributes the lookup visitors for pandemic not solely to searchers who didn’t know what it meant but additionally to these on the hunt for extra element, or for inspiration or consolation.

“We see that the phrase love is regarded up round Valentine’s Day and the phrase cornucopia is regarded up at Thanksgiving,” Sokolowski mentioned. “We see a phrase like surreal spiking when a second of nationwide tragedy or shock happens. It’s the thought of dictionaries being the start of placing your ideas so as.”

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Merriam-Webster acted rapidly in March so as to add and replace entries on its website for phrases associated to the pandemic. Whereas “coronavirus” had been within the dictionary for many years, “COVID-19” was coined in February. Thirty-four days later, Merriam-Webster had it up on-line, together with a pair dozen different entries that have been revised to replicate the well being emergency.

“That’s the shortest time period we’ve ever seen a phrase go from coinage to entry,” Sokolowski mentioned. “The phrase had this urgency.”

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Coronavirus was amongst runners up for phrase of the 12 months because it jumped into the mainstream. Quarantine, asymptomatic, mamba, kraken, defund, antebellum, irregardless, icon, schadenfreude and malarkey have been additionally runners up based mostly on lookup spikes round particular occasions.

Significantly fascinating to phrase nerds like Sokolowski, a lexicographer, is quarantine. With Italian roots, it was used throughout the Black Loss of life of the 1300s for the time period a brand new ship coming into port must wait outdoors a metropolis to forestall illness. The “quar” in quarantine derives from 40, for the 40 days required.

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Spikes for mamba occurred after the January dying of Kobe Bryant, whose nickname was the Black Mamba. A mass of lookups occurred for kraken in July after Seattle’s new Nationwide Hockey League franchise selected the legendary sea monster as its title, urged alongside by followers.

Nation group Girl Antebellum’s title change to Girl A drove dictionary curiosity in June, whereas malarkey bought a lift from President-elect Joe Biden, who’s keen on utilizing the phrase. Icon was entrance and heart in headlines after the deaths of U.S. Rep. John Lewis and U.S. Supreme Court docket Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

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The Merriam-Webster website has about 40 million distinctive month-to-month customers and about 100 million month-to-month web page views.



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