Watch: Collins Dictionary names ‘lockdown’ its word of the year for 2020
Lockdown, the noun that has come to define so many lives across the world in 2020, has been named word of the year by Collins Dictionary.
Lockdown is defined by Collins as “the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces”, and its usage has boomed over the last year. The 4.5bn-word Collins Corpus, which contains written material from websites, books and newspapers, as well as spoken material from radio, television and conversations, registered a 6,000% increase in its usage. In 2019, there were 4,000 recorded instances of lockdown being used. In 2020, this had soared to more than a quarter of a million.
“Language is a reflection of the world around us and 2020 has been dominated by the global pandemic,” says Collins language content consultant Helen Newstead. “We have chosen lockdown as our word of the year because it encapsulates the shared experience of billions of people who have had to restrict their daily lives in order to contain the virus. Lockdown has affected the way we work, study, shop, and socialise. With many countries entering a second lockdown, it is not a word of the year to celebrate but it is, perhaps, one that sums up the year for most of the world.”
Other pandemic-related words such as coronavirus, social distancing, self-isolate and furlough were on the dictionary’s list of the top 10 words. So was the term key worker. According to Collins, key worker saw a 60-fold increase in usage over the last year, which reflects “the importance attributed this year to professions considered to be essential to society”.
The abbreviation BLM, for Black Lives Matter, also made the shortlist. Defined by Collins as “a movement that campaigns against racially motivated violence and oppression”, it registered a 581% increase in usage.
Previous words of the year for Collins include climate strike in 2019, single-use in 2018, fake news in 2017, and Brexit in 2016. This year the top 10 included the word Megxit, defined as “the withdrawal of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from royal duties, announced in January 2020”. Collins said the informal noun, modelled on Brexit, showed “just how firmly established that word now is in our lexicon”.
Collins Dictionary top 10 words of 2020
coronavirus (noun): any one of a group of RNA-containing viruses that can cause infectious illnesses of the respiratory tract, including COVID-19. So called because of their crown-like appearance in electron micrographs.
furlough (noun): a temporary laying-off of employees, usually because there is insufficient work to occupy them; (verb) to lay off (staff) temporarily. From Dutch verlof, from ver (for) and lof (leave); related to Swedish förlof.
key worker or keyworker (noun, Brit): an employee in any of a number of professions considered to be essential to the functioning of society, for example teachers, police officers, health workers, shop workers, etc.
lockdown (noun): the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces.
Megxit (noun, informal): the withdrawal of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from royal duties, announced in January 2020. From Meg(han), Duchess of Sussex and (e)xit; influenced by Brexit.
mukbang (noun, Korean): a video or webcast in which the host eats a large quantity of food for the entertainment of viewers. From meogneun (eating) and bangsong (broadcast).
self-isolate (verb): to quarantine oneself if one has or suspects one has a contagious disease.
social distancing (noun): the practice of maintaining a certain distance between oneself and other people in order to prevent infection with a disease. Also called: physical distancing > social distance or socially distance (verb).
TikToker (noun): a person who regularly shares or appears in videos on TikTok.
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