'Pandemic' Is Dictionary.com's Word of the Year for 2020

It should come as no surprise that the word "pandemic" was deemed dictionary.com's word of the year for 2020. Seems fitting, considering the toll that the coronavirus pandemic has taken on the world since March.

The website released its word of the year on Monday, noting the impact that COVID-19 has had this year and the average 1,000 percent search increase of pandemic's meaning.

"With over 60 million confirmed cases, the pandemic has claimed over one million lives across the globe and is still rising to new peaks. The pandemic has wreaked social and economic disruption on a historic scale and scope, globally impacting every sector of society—not to mention its emotional and psychological toll. All other events for most of 2020, from the protests for racial justice to a heated presidential election, were shaped by the pandemic. Despite its hardships, the pandemic inspired the best of our humanity: resilience and resourcefulness in the face of struggle. And we thought 2019 was an existential year," dictionary.com wrote on its website.

'Pandemic' Is Dictionary.com's Word of the Year
A close-up of the highlighted word 'pandemic' in an old dictionary. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Defined as "a disease prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world," dictionary.com noted that the word "pandemic" was not only the most-searched word on the website on February 3—the date when first COVID-19 patient in the U.S. was released from the hospital—but also on March 11, the day when the World Health Organization officially proclaimed COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The searches for the word "pandemic" jumped to more than 13,575 percent then.

"As the pandemic upended life in 2020, it also dramatically reshaped our language, requiring a whole new vocabulary for talking about our new reality. It defined much of the work we did at Dictionary.com this year in order to meet the urgent need for information and explanation amid a fast-changing crisis," dictionary.com continued.

The word "pandemic" also brought on a slew of words that weren't typically a part of our daily language. Words like "asymptomatic," "frontliner," "quarantine," "pod," "superspreader," "herd immunity" and "furlough" also increased in use and search, essentially expanding our lingual glossary and shaping the context in which humans talk about pandemics going forward.

"Pandemic" was also deemed the word of the year by Merriam-Webster. The definition website also cited the word's "significant year-over-year increase in traffic" as one of the reasons why "pandemic" was the top word for 2020, in addition to the way in which the word "has connected the worldwide medical emergency to the political response and to our personal experience of it all."