‘Pandemic’ chosen as word of the year

Published December 1, 2020, 3:30 PM

by Gabriela Baron

Two online dictionaries on Monday similarly declared ‘pandemic’ as word of the year.


Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com both chose the noun since the term had the most online dictionary lookups of any word.

“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 World of the Year for 2020 is pandemic,” the American dictionary wrote on its official website.

Merriam-Webster said “pandemic” is the word that “has connected worldwide medical emergency to the political response and to our personal experience of it all.”

Merriam-Webster added that the lookup for the word spiked 115,806 percent compared to the same day in 2019. 

Similarly, Dictionary.com said the word “has been running through the profound and manifold ways our lives have been upended — and our language so rapidly transformed — in this unprecedented year.”

Searches for pandemic skyrocketed to 13,575 percent on Dictionary.com compared to 2019. 

Pandemic joined a cluster of other terms that users searched in massive numbers: asymptomatic, CDC, coronavirus, furlough, nonessential, quarantine, and sanitizer.

“The pandemic defined 2020, and it will define the years to come. It is a consequential word for a consequential year,” Dictionary.com wrote.

“As the pandemic upended life in 2020, it also dramatically reshaped our language, requiring a whole new vocabulary for talking about our reality,” it added.

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) a global pandemic as it rapidly spread worldwide.

The COVID-19 infection emerged in Wuhan, China on November 17 last year.