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 fight the spread of COVID-19,” said publisher Harper Collins.
Collins had more than a quarter of a million “lockdown” uses in 2020, down from just 4,000 the previous year.
Due to the impact of the pandemic on everyday language use, six of Collins’ ten words in 2020 are related to the global health crisis.
“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.
For “key workers” alone, usage has increased 60-fold, reflecting the importance attached this year to professions that are seen as essential to society.
“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 “imposing severe 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.”
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 around the world, raising awareness of the movement.
The abbreviation “BLM”, which is widely used as a hashtag on social media, was used extensively in conversations and reports following the protests, and has seen Collins use up 581 percent.
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, modeled after “Brexit”, Collins’ Word of the Year 2016, shows how firmly this word is now anchored in the British lexicon.
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