'Vax' declared word of the year by Oxford English Dictionary

1 November 2021, 13:11 | Updated: 1 November 2021, 13:21

Vax has been named the word of the year.
Vax has been named the word of the year. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The word 'vax' has been declared the Word of the Year for 2021 by lexicographers at the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), for "injecting itself" into the bloodstream of the English language.

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VAX, the publication of its latest language report, looks at the words used most frequently in 2021.

The organisation said 'vax' was a "relatively rare word" in our corpus until this year, and by September it was "over 72 times more frequent than at the same time last year".

"The word vax, more than any other, has injected itself into the bloodstream of the English language in 2021," it added.

"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."

Oxford Languages president Casper Grathwohl said: "When reviewing the language evidence, vax stood out as an obvious choice.

"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.

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"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."

Last year's report by Oxford Languages was expanded to reflect the "unprecedented" nature of 2020, with new terms such as furlough, Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter among the list.

According to the 2021 report, the word vaccine was first recorded in 1799, with its derivatives vaccinate and vaccination first appearing a year later.

Vaccine is believed to derive from the Latin word vacca, which means cow.

Previous examples of Word of the Year include vape, selfie and post-truth, with the "crying with tears" emoji deemed the winner in 2015.