‘Vax’ earns 2021 word of the year from Oxford English Dictionary

In true COVID-19 pandemic fashion, Oxford English Dictionary has named "vax" as the 2021 word of the year. 

"When our lexicographers began digging into our English language corpus data it quickly became apparent that vax was a particularly striking term," Oxford Languages said on its website

According to Oxford Languages, vax— a derivative of vaccine— was a relatively low-key word at the beginning of the year. But by September, it was over 72 times more frequent in the English language than a year ago. Oxford Languages analyzes news content in order to track changes in the English language. 

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The word has also spawned many other terms such as "vax sites," "vax cards," "getting vaxxed" and "fully vaxxed."

"All these other vaccine words increased, but nothing like vax," Fiona McPherson, a senior editor for new words at Oxford Languages, said to the New York Times. "It’s a short, punchy, attention-grabbing word."

"And speaking as a lexicographer, it’s also quite a productive one," she continued. "You see it used in all sorts of combinations to make new words."

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Oxford Languages picks the word of the year from evidence gathered by its language research program, such as the Oxford Corpus, which gathers around 150 million words of current English from web-based publications each month. They also take suggestions from dictionary editors and social media. 

The word of the year doesn’t have to be newly coined but the word needs to have become prominent or notable within the past year. 

An entry into the Oxford dictionary is not guaranteed. 

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Last year, instead of picking a 2020 word of the year, Oxford Languages opted to publish its "Words of an Unprecedented Year" report, which detailed how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as well as the rest of 2020, changed the way we speak.

The Oxford University Press detailed the many new words that began trending, or entering the language, from the beginning of 2020 onward. Among some of the newly ubiquitous words observed by the analysts with Oxford included "bushfire" and "impeachment" in January 2020, followed by "acquittal" in February 2020, before landing on "coronavirus" in March 2020. Other related terms — "COVID-19," "lockdown," "social distancing" and "reopening" — soon followed.

However, two dictionary companies — Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com — declared the same 2020 word of the year as their tops: pandemic.

FOX News and the Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.