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What Should Have Been… The 2020 Word of the Year?

December 3, 2020
(image via wikimedia)

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary claims that the word pandemic is the 2020 Word of the Year. It probably doesn’t matter much. The word pandemic doesn’t receive anything for being Word of the Year, except for a little bit of extra attention, which is unnecessary because pandemic has already received a lot of attention this year.

When it comes to Word of the Year, nobody actually receives an award or anything. And unlike a lot of awards, the standards for Word of the Year seem to be objective. Dictionaries (or the people who run them) judge Word of the Year, not by how much they like a word, but by how often a word is researched online.

At least it isn’t a bunch of dictionary word geeks sitting around and debating which words qualify and which don’t.


Sometimes a single word defines an era, and it’s fitting that in this exceptional—and exceptionally difficult—year, a single word came immediately to the fore as we examined the data that determines what our Word of the Year will be.

Based upon a statistical analysis of words that are looked up in extremely high numbers in our online dictionary while also showing a significant year-over-year increase in traffic, Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2020 is pandemic.

The first big spike in dictionary lookups for pandemic took place on February 3rd, the same day that the first COVID-19 patient in the U.S. was released from a Seattle hospital. That day, pandemic was looked up 1,621% more than it had been a year previous, but close inspection of the dictionary data shows that searches for the word had begun to tick up consistently starting on January 20th, the date of the first positive case in the U.S.

Read more at Word of the Year 2020 | Pandemic.


I prefer to choose my words of the year by how often I hear words used in casual conversation (so I guess I’m a word geek after all). From my own anecdotal, nonscientific evidence, I think the Word of the Year for 2020 is…


I probably heard the word sucks and said the word sucks more frequently than any other word in 2020.

Here are some common examples:

“2020 sucks.”

“COVID-19 sucks.”

You get the idea. I know the word sucks has been used more frequently than any word on Merriam-Webster’s list. The problem with sucks is that it’s always been used a lot, even before 2020, but it seems that sucks usage has been way up this year.

To be fair, I liked a lot of 2020, but some people aren’t ready to hear about positive stuff right now. So in keeping with what I think should be the 2020 Word of the Year…

The word pandemic sucks!


What do you think? What do you think the criteria should be in judging the Word of the Year? What do you think the 2020 Word of the Year should be?

  1. My vote would be for “demoralizing”

  2. I’m wondering if this is one word or 2 and please excuse the swear but I think ‘shitshow’ describes 2020 perfectly!!!!

  3. amusingword permalink


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