“Doomscrolling,” eat your heart out. The good folks at Oxford Languages, the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary, have seen fit to crown “vax” as 2021’s Word of the Year. Oxford announced the coronation in a cheerful Sunday news release: “The word vax, more than any other, has injected itself into the bloodstream of the English language in 2021.” The word has been in usage since the 1980s, but exploded in popularity only recently, appearing 72 times more often in September 2021 than a year prior.
Every year, Oxford’s Word of the Year seeks out the word that best reflects “the ethos, mood or preoccupations of the preceding year” that also has “potential as a term of lasting cultural significance.” In 2020, with an avalanche of new words related to the pandemic, Oxford chose to forego a single winner, instead presenting a highlights reel of sorts. But in 2021, “vax” was by far the clear winner, according to a senior editor at Oxford Languages. In other heartening news, Merriam-Webster added several COVID-related words to their dictionary in October, including “long COVID” and “vaccine passport.”