Pandemic is 2020 Word of the Year: Merriam-Webster

It's the year of COVID-19.
Photo/s: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File

"Pandemic" is the 2020 word of the year according to dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, a reflection of how the COVID-19 crisis has upended the way of life.

The term was widely searched on Merriam-Webster, with an increase of 115,806 percent in lookups on March 11, 2020--the day the World Health Organization officially declared that COID-19 can be "characterized as a pandemic."

"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," the publisher said.

"This has been a year unlike any other, and pandemic is the word that has connected the worldwide medical emergency to the political response and to our personal experience of it all," it said.

Pandemic is defined as "an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the population."


The word has Greek roots: "pan" which means "all" or "every" and "demos" which means "people." Its literal meaning is "of all the people."

Since COVID-19 was characterized as a pandemic, Merriam-Webster said "it has remained high in our lookups ever since, staying near the top of our word list for the past ten months—even as searches for other related terms, such as coronavirus and COVID-19, have waned."

Last year, Merriam-Webster's word of the year was "they" and its usage as a gender-neutral singular pronoun.

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