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'Pandemic' named Merriam-Webster's word of the year

'Pandemic' named Merriam-Webster's word of the year
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Merriam-Webster has announced the 2020 word of the year is pandemic. 

“That probably isn't a big shock,” said Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for the company, according to The Associated Press. “Often the big news story has a technical word that's associated with it and in this case, the word pandemic is not just technical but has become general. It's probably the word by which we'll refer to this period in the future."

By definition, a pandemic is "occurring over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affecting a significant proportion of the population." 

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Merriam-Webster's definition of the word lists malaria as an example.

Dictionary.com also listed "pandemic" as its word of the year, saying in a press release the coronavirus had "profoundly impacted every sector of society and defined the context for all the many other consequential events of the year, including racial injustice, an economic downturn, climate disaster, political division, and rampant disinformation."

In March, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, a global pandemic. 

Since the coronavirus was discovered in late 2019, more than 62 million cases have been reported worldwide, including 1.4 million deaths. 

In the U.S., the virus has spread like wildfire, first during an initial surge in the spring before a second and then third wave this fall. The virus has infected 13.4 million people in the United States and killed 267,000.

Merriam-Webster's word of the year in 2019 was "they" amid renewed conversation about gender identity, with "impeach" in the runner-up spot. 

Justice was the company's 2018 word of the year.