‘Vax’ – informal term for vaccine or vaccination – was declared the Oxford Languages’ 2021 Word of the Year. 

The Oxford English Dictionary said Monday that vax was relatively rare until this year. It defined the term as “a colloquialism meaning either vaccine or vaccination as a noun and vaccinate as a verb.” 

The word first appeared in the 1980s and its usage surged by more than 72 times as frequently in September than a year earlier, the report said. 

“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 said.

“As a short pithy word, it appeals, perhaps especially to media commentators, when more formal alternatives are much more long-winded,” it added. 

“All these other vaccine words increased, but nothing like vax,” Fiona McPherson, a senior editor for new words at Oxford Languages, the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary, said.

The Word of the Year is drawn on the basis of usage evidence rom Oxford’s continually updated corpus of more than 14.5 billion words. These are gathered from news sources across the English-speaking world. 

 “The word vax, more than any other, has injected itself into the bloodstream of the English language in 2021,” Oxford said in a news release.

The parent of the word ‘vaccine’ was  first recorded in English in 1799. It was based on British scientist Edward Jenner’s experiments with inoculation against smallpox. Vaccine is derived from the Latin vacca, or cow.