Fact Check: Merriam-Webster Did NOT Change Definition Of 'Anti-Vaxxer' To Include Section About Mandates -- It Was Already There

Fact Check

  • by: Christiana Dillard
Fact Check: Merriam-Webster Did NOT Change Definition Of 'Anti-Vaxxer' To Include Section About Mandates -- It Was Already There Before COVID

Did Merriam-Webster change the definition of "anti-vaxxer" during the COVID-19 pandemic to include a section about opposing vaccine mandates? No, that's not true: The section discussing opposition to vaccine mandates has been included in the Merriam-Webster definition of "anti-vaxxer" since at least 2018.

The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) on December 7, 2021. It included a screenshot of the Merriam-Webster definition of "anti-vaxxer" (archived here). The definition was "a person who opposes the use of vaccines or regulations mandating vaccination." The caption of the post read:

None of us were 'anti-vaxxers' until they literally changed the definition to include those who 'oppose the use of... regulations mandating vaccination.'

The most Orwellian thing to happen during this pandemic is the real-time altering of definitions to gaslight the world.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook on December 8, 2021:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Dec 8 16:15 2021 UTC)

Although phrased differently, the Merriam-Webster definition of "anti-vaxxer" has included a portion discussing opposition to the regulation of vaccines since at least 2018, before the emergence of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, the disease that results from the virus. This archived definition of "anti-vaxxer" from 2018 defines the word as "a person who opposes vaccination or laws that mandate vaccination." A screenshot of this definition is included below:

anti-vaxxer 2018 def.png

(Source: Merriam-Webster screenshot taken on Wed Dec 8 15:53 2021 UTC)

Lead Stories previously debunked a claim stating that Merriam-Webster changed the definition of "vaccine" to remove a previous portion that mentioned "immunity" due to the controversy over COVID-19 vaccines. However, the portion involving "immunity" was just rephrased. That fact check can be found here.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Christiana Dillard

Christiana Dillard is a former news writer for Temple University’s Lew Klein College of Media and Communication. She received her undergraduate degree in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been a freelance writer for several organizations including the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, Pitt Magazine, and The Heinz Endowments. When she’s not producing or studying media she’s binging it, watching YouTube videos or any interesting series she can find on streaming services.

Read more about or contact Christiana Dillard

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