Oxford English Dictionary Took 16 Words of the Year to Describe 2020

Traditionally, theOxford English Dictionary team chooses “word of the year,” a word or expression that has generated significant interest over the past 12 months. It is a way to capture the mood or lasting impact that a particular year has had on all of us; For example, in 2019 the word was “ climate emergency ”, in 2014 there was the word “vape”, in 2009 there was the word “not to be friends”, and in 2005 there was the word “podcast”. But this year – the year in which all semblance of normality has left us – OED has not been able to find a single word. One word was not going to be abbreviated, so this year we needed as many as 16 pieces.

OED explains :

The English language, like the rest of us, had to adapt quickly and repeatedly this year. Our team of experienced lexicographers have collected and analyzed this lexical data every step of the way. When the Word of the Year process began and this data was discovered, it quickly became apparent that 2020 is not a year that can be accurately written into a single “word of the year”, so we decided to talk in more detail about the phenomenal breadth of language changes and development for the year in our report “Words of an Unprecedented Year” .

The words he chooses in chronological order below are the wildest walks down memory lane. Here they are, as well as the Oxford Language descriptions of why they were chosen.

  • Wildfires : “One of the defining climate events of late 2019 and early 2020 was Australia’s worst wildfire season on record .”
  • Impeachment : “Hot topic in January when Donald Trump’s impeachment trial began.” (Was it really this year?)
  • Justification : “The peak came in February after the end of the Donald Trump impeachment trial.” (Ah, that was quick.)
  • Coronavirus : “One of the clearest examples of the increase in its use, by March this year it was one of the most commonly used nouns in the English language after being used to refer to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”
  • COVID-19 : “A completely new word this year, first recorded in a World Health Organization report as an acronym for Coronavirus Disease 2019. It quickly overtook the coronavirus in frequency. “
  • Isolation : “The preferred term in most English-speaking countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, for enforced quarantine measures in response to the spread of Covid-19.”
  • Social distancing : “Frequency has skyrocketed as governments around the world have taken action to reduce the spread of Covid-19.”
  • Reopening : “By summer, more encouraging words have become more frequent in the Northern Hemisphere, including reopening (stores, businesses, etc.).”
  • Black Lives Matter : “Black American use has skyrocketed since June this year, remaining high for the rest of the year as law enforcement protests over the assassinations of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black Americans took root in communities around the world. USA and around the world. “
  • “Cancellation culture” : “Many of the social controversies that characterized this year have grown significantly in use, such as a culture of abolition, a culture of boycotting and withdrawing support from public figures whose words and actions are considered socially unacceptable.”
  • BIPOC : “The popularity of BIPOC, an acronym for black, local people and other colored peoples, has skyrocketed.”
  • Mail-In : “Much political attention has been given to the US Postal Service as a means of voting in these troubled times in terms of increasing word usage, with mail usage increasing 3,000% over last year. … “
  • Belorussky : “As a result of the re-election of Alyaksandr Lukashenka in August in Belarus, the adjective“ Belarusian ”quickly rose in the ratings as this story made headlines around the world.”
  • Moonshot : This September was marked by a rocket ascent as the name of the UK government’s Covid mass testing program.
  • Superspreader : “It dates back to the 1970s, but this year they’ve gotten a lot more frequent. There was a particular spike in usage in October, mainly due to the much-publicized proliferation of cases in the White House. ”
  • Net Zero : Growing as the year draws to a close: The recent increase is partly due to the historic promise made by President Xi Jinping in September that China will be carbon neutral by 2060. ”

The Oxford English Dictionary team says the words are selected by a group of expert lexicographers who identify new and emerging English words and track their usage. Hopefully the 2021 “word” will be something like “thank God it’s over with.”


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