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Merriam-Webster’s 2020 word of the year is ‘pandemic.’ Here are 11 more surprising runners-up

On March 11, 2020, lookups of ‘pandemic’ spiked 115,806%. That’s the day the World Health Organization declared ‘COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.’

Merriam-Webster’s 2020 word of the year is ‘pandemic.’ Here are 11 more surprising runners-up
[Photo: Martin Sanchez/Unsplash]
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In what will come as a surprise to almost no one, Merriam-Webster has announced its word of the year—and it is “pandemic.” America’s leading chronicler of words announced 2020’s pick today, noting, “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.”

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Merriam-Webster picks its annual word of the year based on a statistical analysis of words that are looked up on its online platforms “in extremely high numbers” and which show “a significant year-over-year increase in traffic.” The company said the first big spike in “pandemic” searches came on February 3, 2020—the day the first American COVID-19 patient was released from the hospital. That day saw “pandemic” lookups rise 1,621% above the previous year.

And on March 11, 2020, lookups of “pandemic” spiked even higher—115,806%, as a matter of fact. That’s the day the World Health Organization said “COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”

While “pandemic” as the 2020 word of the year isn’t much of a shocker, here are the 11 runners-up, some of which are a little more surprising, yet many of which relate to the train wreck of a year 2020 has been.

  1. Coronavirus
  2. Defund
  3. Mamba
  4. Kraken
  5. Quarantine
  6. Antebellum
  7. Schadenfreude
  8. Asymptomatic
  9. Irregardless
  10. Icon
  11. Malarkey

About the author

Michael Grothaus is a novelist, journalist, and former screenwriter. His debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out now from Orenda Books. You can read more about him at MichaelGrothaus.com

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