Collins Dictionary said Tuesday that “lockdown” is the word of the year in 2020 after usage increased dramatically during the spread of Covid-19.
Lexicographers said they chose the word because it has become synonymous with the experience of people around the world as governments try to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a unified experience for billions of people around the world who worked together to help fight the spread of COVID-19,” said publisher Harper Collins.
Collins had more than a quarter of a million “lockdown” uses in 2020, up from just 4,000 the previous year. Due to the impact of the pandemic on everyday language usage, six of Collins’ ten words in 2020 are related to the global health crisis.
A man plays with a soccer ball in an almost deserted Chester city center during the lockdown in England in April. (Image: Oli Scarff / AFP)
“Coronavirus”, “social distancing”, “self-isolation” and “vacation” as well as “lockdown” and “key worker” have been added to the longer list of the 10 words of the year. In the case of “key workers” alone, usage has increased 60-fold, which reflects the importance attached to professions that are seen as essential to society this year.
“2020 has been dominated by the global pandemic,” said Helen Newstead, Collins language advisor. “Lockdown has affected the way we work, study, shop and socialize.
“With many countries entering a second lockdown, it’s not a word of the year to celebrate, but it may be one that sums up the year for most of the world.”
Collins defines “lockdown” as “the imposition of strict restrictions on travel, social interaction and access to public spaces”. According to the dictionary, the coronavirus is: “Any of a group of RNA-containing viruses that can cause infectious diseases of the respiratory tract, including COVID-19.”
A deserted 42nd street can be seen in midtown New York in April. (Image: Timothy A Clary / AFP)
Significant social and political developments beyond the virus are also reflected in the list that has already found its way into the online editions of the English dictionary.
A wave of protests against Black Lives Matter, sparked by the death of the unarmed black man George Floyd in US police custody, spread across the world, raising awareness of the movement.
The abbreviation “BLM,” which is widely used as a hashtag on social media, was used frequently in conversations and reports following the protests, and Collins saw a 581 percent increase in usage.
A protest against Black Lives Matter in Philadelphia. (Image: Chris Henry / Unsplash)
Social media regularly brings up new words for the dictionary. This year, Collins recorded “TikToker,” which describes someone who shares content on the TikTok social media platform. “Mukbang,” referring to a South Korean trend in which video bloggers eat large amounts of food in videos sent to their followers, also made the list.
The British royal family influenced the shortlist in 2020. “Megxit,” referring to Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s withdrawal from royal duties, was used regularly.
The word, which is modeled after “Brexit”, Collins’ Word of the Year 2016, shows how firmly this word is now anchored in the British lexicon.
(Main and main picture: Timothy A Clary / AFP)