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No, Merriam-Webster didn’t change the definition of ‘anti-vaxxer’

By PolitiFact

Merriam-Webster defines the word “anti-vaxxer” as “a person who opposes vaccination or laws that mandate vaccination.”

Online, some people are alleging that the dictionary powerhouse recently, sneakily changed the meaning of the word.

The Russia-backed media organization RT wrote on May 12 that Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary was “again redefining language to fit a narrative, this time framing its definition of ‘anti-vaxxer’ to include not only people who oppose vaccination, but also those who are against inoculation mandates.”

Young America’s Foundation tweeted that day that Merriam-Webster “updated its definition of ‘anti-vaxxer’ to include anyone who opposed mandatory vaccines.”

screenshot of another tweet being shared on social media claims that “The Merriam-Webster dictionary has changed their definition of ‘anti-vaxxer’ to include ‘people who oppose laws that mandate vaccination.’ Welcome to 1984, this is The Ministry of Truth.”

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large of, told us that the entry for “anti-vaxxer” was first added to the online dictionary in February 2018 and hasn’t been revised or changed since.

We found evidence to support that.

An archived page of the “anti-vaxxer” entry from Nov. 25, 2018, shows the same definition as today. That’s also true for archived pages from 20192020, and 2021.

Two years ago, someone cited the definition in response to a Quora question about “the exact definition of an anti-vaxxer,” and it’s referenced in a November 2018 HuffPost story about a screenwriter who compared the word “anti-vax” to a racial slur.

The current definition has existed online for more than three years, since it was first added to the dictionary, according to Merriam-Webster.

We rate posts that claim otherwise False.