The Oxford English Dictionary Named “Vax” as Its 2021 Word of the Year

This seems fitting

From "lockdown" to "vax" in a year sounds like progress.
Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

What would you consider to be the word of 2021? The Oxford English Dictionary has made its selection — and, surprising few, that honor is going to “vax.” The BBC covered the news of the long-running dictionary’s decision — one which follows their choice last year to highlight a number of words that had surged to prominence. Among them, the BBC reports, were “lockdown,” “furlough,” “bushfires,” “COVID-19,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “WFH.” The Collins Dictionary, meanwhile, opted for the singular choice of “lockdown” as its word of the year for 2020.

In other words, that means we’ve moved from “lockdown” to “vax” in the span of a year, which sounds about right.

There’s little clarity, however, on whether “vaxed” or “vaxxed” is the preferred spelling to describe someone who’s received the vaccine. The BBC cites the OED’s use of the phrase “double-vaxxed” in its article, while the Collins Dictionary uses both “vaxed” and “vaxxed.”

According to the article, the first appearance of “vax” was in 1799, with “vaccinate” and “vaccination” following a year later. The words originated from the Latin word vacca, which means “cow,” and relates to the development of vaccines used to treat cowpox. (Useful information for your next pub quiz night.) There’s also some debate over how accurate that piece of medical history is — but the phrasing seems unlikely to change at this point.

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