Hyderabad: A post that claimed the Merriam-Webster dictionary has changed the definition of the word 'anti-vaxxer' to "people who oppose laws that mandate vaccination", has gone viral on social media amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The claim read, "Merriam-Webster has changed the definition of anti-vaxxer to include anyone who opposes laws mandating vaccines."


NewsMeter has found that the claim is false.

NewsMeter searched online for media reports on this issue but found none. Then, we searched for the definition of anti-vaxxer on the Merriam-Webster website and found that as of 22 May 2021, the definition read, "A person who opposes vaccination or laws that mandate vaccination." The same definition was being used since 2018. We looked at web archives of the page and found the same definition on dates 8 April 2021, 7 January 2021, 20 May 2020, 30 October 2019 and 25 November 2018. This proved that the definition has not been changed since 2018.

https://web.archive.org/web/20210408174700/https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anti-vaxxer 8 April 20121

https://web.archive.org/web/20210107233717/https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anti-vaxxer 7 Jan 2021

https://web.archive.org/web/20200520192536/https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anti-vaxxer 20 May 2020

https://web.archive.org/web/20191030185546/https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anti-vaxxer 30 Oct 2019

https://web.archive.org/web/20181125060933/https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anti-vaxxer 25 Nov 2018

Speaking to Snopes, Peter Sokolowski (lexicographer) at Merriam-Webster clarified that the word was first added to the online dictionary in February 2018, and that the definition has never been changed since then.

This clarified that the definition of the word has not been changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic nor is linked to the formulation of the word's definition. It has been the same since 2018.

Thus, the claim is false.

Claim Review :   Merriam-Webster changed definition of ‘anti-vaxxer’
Claimed By :  Twitter Users
Fact Check :  False

Misha Rajani

Misha Rajani is a Fact Checker at NewsMeter. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from St. Francis College for Women. She has written a thesis on “ Role of social media in highlighting injustice”. Apart from pursuing a career in news writing, Misha is also skilled in graphic designing. You can follow Misha on Twitter @misharajani00

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