Vax declared as the Oxford dictionary’s word of the year 2021

In the 1980s, the word vax was a rare word, which was used as a short form of ‘anti-vaccinist’.

Vax, used as a short form of the vaccine has been declared as the 2021 Word of the Year by the Oxford Languages. According to the lexicographers, vax was a ‘particularly striking term’. The researchers have noted that the frequency of the term increased by over 72 times by September on year.

“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,” the report said.

Influential word

The editor also noted that for the first time this year their report had also examined how the language of vaccines has influenced foreign languages, including English.

The frequency of the word vaccine more than doubled between September 2020 and September 2021. More than the words themselves, the usage of relative terms like ‘vaccinate’ and ‘vaccination’ over the same period increased by 34 fold and 18 fold, respectively. This happened due to the shift of the focus from the development of a vaccine to the ‘process of getting vaccinated’. 

“Other vaccine-related words which have significantly increased in frequency this year include inoculate, booster, jab, and shot,” stated the report.

Vax first used in the 1980s

Amidst all the vaccine-related words whose frequency has soared this year, the most striking one is vax. The word vax dates back to the 1980s, appearing first as a noun in the sense ‘a vaccine or vaccination’, and then from the early 21st century as a verb meaning ‘vaccinate’, the statement from the report read.

In the 1980s, the word vax was a short form of ‘anti-vaccinist’. However, it was still a rare word. While the usual pattern is ending in x and not a double x, the expressive usage of double x is rapidly increasing in certain contexts, especially words identifying with digital communication.

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