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News24.com | Merriam-Webster announces ‘pandemic’ as 2020 Word of the Year

People wearing protective face coverings to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the city centre, near to an electronic poster displaying Covid-19 information in Hull, north-east England on November 18, 2020.

People wearing protective face coverings to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the city centre, near to an electronic poster displaying Covid-19 information in Hull, north-east England on November 18, 2020.

PHOTO: Oli Scarff/AFP

NEW YORK – The 2020 prize for Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year went to an obvious choice: pandemic.

The term had the most online dictionary lookups of any word, Merriam-Webster said on its website, after a year in which at least 1.4 million people globally have died from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The dictionary publisher said:

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.

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,” according to Merriam-Webster.com.

The word’s Greek roots are “pan”, meaning all or every and “demos”, meaning people, Merriam-Webster said.

Dictionary lookups skyrocketed on 11 March when the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially labelled Covid-19 a pandemic.

The word “saw the single largest spike in dictionary traffic in 2020, showing an increase of 115 806% over lookups on that day in 2019” said the company, founded in 1831.

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