“Vaccine” surpasses “confinement” as word of the year

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Experts warn of the risk of continuous vaccination of adults, WHO, EMA, University of Valladolid
Credit: Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

The Fundación del Español Urgente (FundéuRAE) has chosen “vaccine” as the word of the year for 2021.

Humanity is still caught up in the dizziness of the covid pandemic and after choosing “confinement” as the word of 2020, it is now the turn of what was seen as its solution, “the vaccine.”

In addition to its strong presence in the social, political, scientific and economic debate, the Foundation has selected it for its linguistic interest. The concept of vaccine arose in the 18th century as a result of the discovery by the English physician Edward Jenner that those infected by cowpox or smallpox were protected against human smallpox.

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In Spanish, vaccina (created from the Latin vaccinus, i.e., ‘of the cow’) was used for a time, but vacuna was eventually imposed, appearing for the first time in the Diccionario de la RAE in 1803, although not with its current meaning, which was included in 1914.

The FundéuRAE has devoted numerous recommendations to it during 2021, several of them focused on its confusion with other terms, such as serum, antidote or immunisation. Likewise, its use with certain verbs has generated doubts (inocular is a generic term for administering a vaccine, while inject refers to a specific way of doing so).

Other related terms have also featured in the Foundation’s recommendations and consultations this year, such as trypanophobia (‘irrational fear of injections’) or herd immunity (to refer to the theory that if the majority of a population is immunised against a virus, this group will provide indirect protection to the unvaccinated).


Coronavirus-related words made up a significant proportion of the candidates for FundéuRAE’s 2021 word of the year, as was the case in 2020. In addition to vaccine, among those chosen were “denialist” and “variant.”

The other candidates alluded to the environment (eco-anxiety, carbon neutrality), technology (metaverse, cryptocurrency) and other topical issues (fajana, megawatt, taliban.)


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Laura is from a small seaside town in North Wales and has also lived in Liverpool and Manchester, where she studied English Literature and worked in social media and marketing. Laura moved to the city of Zaragoza last August to teach English, but after missing the coast she decided to move to beautiful Nerja to enjoy the sun and sea. Laura has a passion for animals, films, outdoor activities, writing and the environment.

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