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, Dictionary.com 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
Conversations about President Trump, climate change, and even Toy Story 4's Forky all tie in to Dictionary.com's word of the year for 2019: "existential."
Dictionary.com 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. Dictionary.com 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."
Other stories Dictionary.com 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.