There is nothing really new to say about the unusual year of 2020 but we can review the way the events affected our vocabulary. In my previous post I looked at the pandemic itself. In this post, I look at the main words that came into being as a result of the way it changed our lives.


We were asked, when we were allowed out, to SOCIAL DISTANCE and keep a minimum distance from people. Venues were asked to be COVID-SAFE and comply with government requirements. These measures were to make CONTACT TRACING simple for the authorities. Contact tracing is the practice of locating people who have been in close proximity to someone diagnosed with an infectious disease, such as COVID-19.


Hospitality and retail businesses took a hammering during lockdown unless they PIVOTED. Pivoting meant fundamentally changing the direction of their business when the current products or services no longer met the needs of the market.


In the UK, people identified as most at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID have been advised to SHIELD by the British Government. This means they should not leave their homes and should minimise all face-to-face contact, that is, shield themselves from exposure to the disease.


Many food businesses moved to providing takeaways. There was an increase in the rise of DARK KITCHENS (also known as VIRTUAL KITCHENS, CLOUD KITCHENS, GHOST KITCHENS) that sell meals exclusively through delivery.

Many people started baking their own bread (particularly sourdough) given the extra time they experienced under lockdown. Some even turned to FAKEAWAYS preparing food at home which would normally be purchased as takeaway, such as pizzas, burgers, and noodles.

The Collins Dictionary included MUKBANG in their top ten words for 2020. It is a video or webcast in which the host eats a large quantity of food for the entertainment of viewers. I can only assume that this was a result of the lockdown because you couldn’t go to food halls to witness it live. It’s word origin is recent Korean, from meogneun for eating and bangsong for broadcast (see main image).


As time dragged, the French coined a new word, JEUDREDI. It referred to the lockdown problem of not being able to remember what day it is (it is mash-up of jeudi (Thursday) and vendredi (Friday). Sometimes it was SAMEDIMANCHE (Saturday and Sunday).


Macquarie Dictionary included WFH for WORKING FROM HOME. The OED listed other words getting more use during lockdown. These included WORKCATION (up 500%) for a holiday in which you also work and STAYCATION (up 380%), a holiday at home or in your home country. CORONACATION is a pandemic-induced staycation.


The video-conferencing application Zoom made its mark and became a verb (ZOOMING) giving its name to the process. Zoom has generated other neologisms. These include, ZOOMBOMBING, the act of joining a private video meeting while not authorised to do so and ZUMPING, being dumped by your partner on a personal Zoom meeting.


The Macquarie Dictionary chose two Word of the Years for 2020. DOOMSCROLLING refers to the continual barrage of troubling news we were barraged with in 2020 from bushfires, to the US elections and Black Lives Matter to, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic (the other was RONA see previous blogpost).


The French came up with CORONAPISTES. New cycle lanes emerged in Paris to encourage city-dwellers to get on their bikes and avoid overcrowding public transport in June. The word is a portmanteau word made up of piste cyclabe for cycle lanes and coronavirus.


Macquarie Dictionary included INFODEMIC as a contender for their word-of-the-year. It refers to the situation where there is so much information available that it is difficult to understand what is reliable and what is not.


Also on the Macquarie Dictionary list is THUMBSTOPPING. It describes exemplary content, typically viewed on a mobile device, that catches the attention of the user and causes them to stop scrolling.

This is the second of our series of word of the year 2020 posts. The first looked at the words around the great pandemic.