It’s that time of the year again, when a dictionary company reveals what the hell we’ve all been talking about for the last 12 months. In 2019, it was ‘cancel culture’ and the climate emergency’; in 2015, it was simply the crying-laughing emoji; any guesses for 2020?
Defined by Collins Dictionary as “the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces”, the use of the word ‘lockdown’ has increased by 6,000 per cent this year. In 2019, the word ‘lockdown’ was used just 4,000 times, but in 2020, its recorded use rose to more than a quarter of a million.
Other pandemic-related words joining the list this year are ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolate’, ‘furlough’, and ‘key worker’.
“Language is a reflection of the world around us, and 2020 has been dominated by the global pandemic,” Collins’ language content consultation, Helen Newstead, said in a statement. “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.”
She continued: “Lockdown has affected the way we work, study, shop, and socialise. With many countries entering a second lockdown, it’s not a word of the year to celebrate, but it is, perhaps, one that sums up the year for most of the world.”
It’s not just COVID-19 hogging the spotlight, though. ‘BLM’ – the abbreviation for Black Lives Matter – has also made Collins’ list. Defined as “a movement that campaigns against racially motivated violence and oppression”, ‘BLM’ saw a 581 per cent increase in its usage in 2020, largely due to the global protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in May.
‘TikToker’ has also made the cut, and is defined as “a person who regularly shares or appears in videos on TikTok”. The video-sharing app soared in popularity during lockdown, and is now the go-to platform for Gen Z (particularly when they’re galvanising to trollDonald Trump).
So, there you have it folks. Hopefully 2021’s word of the year won’t centre on imprisonment.