Defined as “vaccine or vaccination” when used as a noun, and “to treat (someone) with a vaccine to produce immunity against a disease; vaccinate” as a verb, this year’s word marks a change from 2020, when the OED team decided that the mess that was last year was “not a year that could neatly be accommodated in one single ‘word of the year’”.
“We have decided to report more expansively on the phenomenal breadth of language change and development over the year,” the OED said at the time.
In this year’s report, the team said that the word “shot up” in usage (pun perhaps not intended) in September, when it was “over 72 times more frequent than the same time last year”.
“When you add to that its versatility in forming other words - vaxxie, vax-a-thon, vaxinista - it became clear that vax was the standout in the crowd.”
Not to mention the rise of ‘anti-vaxxer’ as a term, too – unfortunately.
As is to be expected – probably – the word choice from the OED has left Twitter users conflicted, while some have wondered why a word of the year has been chosen when we still have two more months of 2021 to get through: