November 30, 2020

Merriam-Webster has selected the word of the year for 2020, and it's the obvious choice.

The company on Monday picked "pandemic" as its 2020 word of the year, saying the term received a massive 115,806 percent spike in searches in March compared to a year earlier, The Associated Press reports. That spike came on the day the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, Merriam-Webster said, though smaller spikes had occurred earlier in 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," Merriam-Webster said.

Among the numerous runners up were terms related to the COVID-19 pandemic like "coronavirus," "quarantine," and "asymptomatic." But another runner up was "defund," which Merriam-Webster said saw a more than 6,000 percent increase in lookups in 2020 amid calls to "defund the police."

The word "mamba" also saw a spike in searchers following the death of Kobe Bryant, who was nicknamed "Black Mamba," and "malarkey," a word used frequently by President-elect Joe Biden, saw an uptick in searches in 2020 as well. The other runners up were "kraken," "antebellum," "schadenfreude," "irregardless," and "icon."

Meanwhile, also picked "pandemic" as its word of the year, with senior research editor John Kelly telling The Associated Press, "It seems maybe a little bit obvious, and that's fair to say, but think about life before the pandemic. Things like pandemic fashion would have made no sense. The pandemic as an event created a new language for a new normal." Brendan Morrow

December 2, 2019

Conversations about President Trump, climate change, and even Toy Story 4's Forky all tie in to's word of the year for 2019: "existential." announced the selection Monday, with the site saying searches for "existential" spiked throughout the year, such as after former Vice President Joe Biden labeled President Trump an "existential threat to America" or after people like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and activist Greta Thunberg referred to climate change as an "existential crisis" or an "existential emergency."

And yes, Forky, the sentient spork from Disney's Toy Story 4 who goes through an existential crisis while questioning his reason for being in the film, was also taken into consideration. writes that "his dilemma actually speaks to a broader theme of threat and crisis reflected not only in culture and news, but also in our dictionary work throughout this year."

Talk about a depressing way to end the decade. Other word-of-the-year selections aren't much cheerier, though. Oxford Dictionaries went with "climate emergency," and its shortlist included words like "eco-anxiety" and "extinction." Last year,'s word of the year was "misinformation," while in in 2017, it was "complicit."

Other stories ties in to its pick include the Hong Kong protests, Brexit, and the mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas. The word existential "captures a sense of grappling with the survival — literally and figuratively — of our planet, our loved ones, our ways of life," the site bleakly writes.

Happy New Year, everyone! Brendan Morrow

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