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A shot in the arm for linguists: Vax is Oxford's word of the year

A shot in the arm for linguists: Vax is Oxford’s word of the year after ‘injecting itself into the bloodstream of the English language’

  • The use of the word ‘vax’ was up 72 times compared to September last year
  • The word ‘vax’ broadened into a wider range of contexts such as ‘anti-vaxxers’
  • Word of the year is based on usage evidence from news sources across the world

The company that creates the Oxford English Dictionary has chosen ‘vax’ as its word of the year.

Oxford Languages said vax had ‘injected itself into the bloodstream of the English language’ during the pandemic.  

With shots of Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna making their way into arms across the country, the use of the word ‘vax’ was up 72 times compared to September last year.

The company that creates the Oxford English Dictionary has chosen ‘vax’ as its word of the year (stock image)

The word ‘vax’ had also been broadened into a wider range of contexts such as ‘anti-vax’, ‘anti-vaxxers’, ‘fully vaxxed’ and ‘vax cards’, it was reported in the Guardian.

The word of the year is based on usage evidence drawn from Oxford’s continually updated corpus of more than 14.5 billion words, gathered from news sources across the English-speaking world.  

Oxford Languages said the trend had been seen in other languages, including ‘vacina’ in Portugal and the French ‘vaccin’.

Casper Grathwohl, the president of Oxford Languages, 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.’

The use of the word ‘vaccine’ can be dated back to the end of the eighteenth century when an English physician named Edward Jenner found cowpox could be used as a vaccine against smallpox.

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