Vax: Why is it the word of the year and what’s the meaning?
The Oxford English Dictionary’s lexicographers have chosen Vax as the Word of the Year for 2021. (OED).
Due to Covid, vaccine-related words such as double-vaxxed, unvaxxed, and anti-vaxxer have seen an increase in usage in 2021.
“The word vax, more than any other, has shot itself into the circulation of the English language in 2021,” Oxford Languages noted in a paper on vaccination terminology.
“A relatively rare word in our corpus until this year, by September it was over 72 times more frequent than at the same time last year,” the organisation said.
“It has generated numerous derivatives that we are now seeing in a wide range of informal contexts, from vax sites and vax cards to getting vaxxed and being fully vaxxed, no word better captures the atmosphere of the past year than vax.”
The word vaccine was first recorded in 1799, according to the 2021 study, with its derivatives vaccinate and vaccination appearing a year later.
The word vaccine is thought to come from the Latin word vacca, which means cow. According to the study, this is tied to Edward Jenner, an English physician and scientist who pioneered smallpox vaccination in the late 1790s and early 1800s.
“When analyzing the language data, vax came out as an obvious choice,” stated Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages.
“The word’s dramatic spike in usage caught our attention first. Then we ran the analysis and a story started to emerge, revealing how vax sat at the centre of our preoccupations this year.
“The evidence was everywhere, from dating apps (vax 4 vax) and pent-up frustrations (hot vax summer) to academic calendars (vaxx to school) and bureaucratic operations (vax pass).
“In monopolising our discourse, it’s clear the language of vaccines is changing how we talk—and think—about public health, community, and ourselves.”
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