Vax is Oxford English Dictionary's 2021 word of the year. Any surprises, there?

Vax derived from the Latin word vacca, which means cow, was first recorded in English in 1799. And we all know why it's the word of the year
Representative Image | Pic: Flickr
Representative Image | Pic: Flickr

'Vax' has been chosen as the word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the media reported. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, words related to vaccines spiked in frequency in 2021, with double-vaxxed, unvaxxed and anti-vaxxer all seeing a surge in use, the BBC reported.

Vax was an obvious choice as it has made "the most striking impact", OED senior editor Fiona McPherson was quoted as saying. "It goes back at least to the 1980s, but according to our corpus it was rarely used until this year," she said. "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", she said.

Vax and vaxx are both accepted spellings but the form with one x is more common. In September usage of the word "vax" was up more than 72 times from its level last year, OED said. The word, and others related to vaccination, had also been broadened into a wider range of contexts including "fully vaxxed" and "vax cards", the Guardian reported.

Use of the word 'pandemic' has also increased by more than 57,000 per cent this year, the report said. Vax derived from the Latin word vacca, which means cow, was first recorded in English in 1799. Its derivatives vaccinate and vaccination both first appeared in 1800. According to the OED, this is due to English physician and scientist Edward Jenner's pioneering work on vaccination against smallpox in the late 1790s and early 1800s.

Oxford Languages and Collins each decide their own word of the year, and in 2020 Collins chose "lockdown". But Oxford decided it was an unprecedented year with too many contenders, so expanded its award to encompass a handful of newly key words including lockdown, bushfires and COVID-19, as well as Black Lives Matter, WFH (working from home), keyworkers and furlough, the report said. Oxford Languages says its corpus, or language resource, gathers news content, which is updated daily and contains over 14.5 billion words for lexicographers to search and analyse.

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