Oxford Dictionary’s Word(s) of the Year

Every year since 2004, Oxford Dictionary has announced its choice for Word of the Year.

According to Wikipedia, the Word of the Year need not have been coined within the past twelve months but it does need to have become prominent or notable during that time. There is no guarantee that the Word of the Year will be included in any Oxford dictionary. The Oxford Dictionaries Words of the Year are selected by editorial staff from each of the Oxford dictionaries. The selection team is made up of lexicographers and consultants to the dictionary team, and editorial, marketing, and publicity staff.

Oxford Dictionaries notes that the Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance.

Two years ago the word was toxic and last year it was climate emergency.

Given how unusual 2020 has been, perhaps it’s no surprise that the choice for word of the year was a little different as well. Oxford languages concluded that this is a year which cannot be neatly accommodated in one single word.

As a result, they settled on the following 48 words. My favorites are in bold.

  • allyship n. active support for the rights of a minority or marginalized group without being a member of it
  • anthropause n. a global slowdown of travel and other human activities
  • anti-masker n. a person who opposes the wearing of face masks
  • anti-vaxxer n. a person who is opposed to vaccination
  • BC. before Covid/before coronavirus
  • Black Lives Matter n. a movement formed to campaign against systemic racism and violence against black people
  • blended learning n. a style of education in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face teaching
  • BLM. Black Lives Matter
  • Blursday n. a day of the week that is indistinguishable from any other
  • bubble n. (during an outbreak of an infectious disease) a restricted group of people whose members are allowed to be in close proximity when maintaining a physical distance is otherwise required
  • cancel culture n. a culture in which there is a widespread practice of publicly rejecting or withdrawing support from people or things regarded as promoting socially unacceptable views
  • circuit breaker n. (a) an automatic device for stopping the flow of current in an electric circuit as a safety measure; (b) an automatic, temporary halt placed on stock trading, typically as a means of inhibiting panic selling; (c) a short period of lockdown intended to inhibit the spread of an infectious disease
  • community transmission n. transmission of an infectious disease or pathogen between members of a community, especially as a result of casual contact
  • coronavirus n. any of a group of RNA viruses that cause a variety of respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological diseases in humans and other animals; (specifically) a coronavirus responsible for an outbreak of serious respiratory disease in humans, especially the major pandemic beginning in 2019
  • Covid-19 n. an acute disease in humans caused by a coronavirus, which is characterized mainly by fever and cough and is capable of progressing to pneumonia, respiratory and renal failure, blood coagulation abnormalities, and death, especially in the elderly and people with underlying health conditions; (also) the coronavirus that causes this disease
  • covidiot n. (depreciative) a person who disobeys guidelines designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19
  • decolonize v. to free (an institution, sphere of activity, etc.) from the cultural or social effects of colonization
  • defund v. to cease to fund (something)
  • doomscrolling n. the action of compulsively scrolling through social media or news feeds which relate bad news
  • flatten the curve v. to take measures designed to reduce the rate at which infection spreads during an epidemic, with the aim of lowering the peak daily number of new cases and extending the period over which new cases occur furlough originally associated with members of the armed forces going on leave, and was chiefly used in the US. In March and April 2020 though, when it started to be used in other countries as employers were given grants to pay employees who were not working, usage shot up
  • hygiene theatre n. cleaning practices which give the illusion of sanitization without reducing the risk of infection
  • infodemic n. a proliferation of diverse, often unsubstantiated information relating to a crisis, controversy, or event, which disseminates rapidly and uncontrollably through news, online, and social media, and is regarded as intensifying public speculation or anxiety
  • Juneteenth n. 19 June, celebrated as a holiday commemorating the emancipation of African-American slaves in Texas on that date in 1865.
  • learning modality n. a method of delivery of teaching and learning
  • lockdown n. a state of isolation, containment, or restricted access, usually instituted for security purposes or as a public health measure; the imposition of this state
  • mail-in adj. designating ballots, surveys, etc., in which results are collected by mail
  • moonshot n. an extremely ambitious and innovative project
  • net zero n. a target of completely negating the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activity, to be achieved by reducing emissions and implementing methods of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
  • pandemic n. a disease which is epidemic over a very large area and affects a large proportion of a population; an outbreak of such a disease
  • personal protective equipment n. clothing and equipment designed to provide the wearer or user protection against hazardous substances or environments, or to prevent transmission of infectious diseases
  • plandemic n. a planned pandemic
  • PPE = personal protective equipment
  • R number n. reproduction number, the average number of cases of an infectious disease arising by transmission from a single infected individual
  • rona n. (informal) coronavirus; Covid-19
  • sanny n. (chiefly Australian) hand sanitizer
  • self-isolate v. to undertake self-imposed isolation for a period of time, typically in one’s own home, in order to avoid catching or transmitting an infectious disease, or as one of a number of public health measures designed to inhibit its spread
  • social distancing n. the action or practice of maintaining a certain physical distance from, or limiting physical contact with, another person or people (especially family and friends), especially in order to avoid catching or transmitting an infectious disease, or as one of a number of public health measures designed to inhibit its spread
  • superspreader n. an individual infected with a (pathogenic) microorganism who transmits it to an unusually large number of other individuals
  • systemic racism n. discrimination or unequal treatment on the basis of membership of a particular ethnic group (typically one that is a minority or marginalized), arising from systems, structures, or expectations that have become established within society or an institution
  • take a knee v. to go down on one knee as a peaceful means of protesting against racism
  • twindemic n. the simultaneous occurrence of two pandemics
  • unmute v. to turn on (a microphone or the audio on an electronic device), especially after having temporarily turned it off
  • Veronica bucket n. a type of sanitation equipment consisting of a covered bucket with a tap fixed at the bottom and a bowl fitted below to collect wastewater
  • virtue-signalling n. (depreciative) the public expression of opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue
  • wet market n. (South-East Asian) a market for the sale of fresh meat, fish, and produce
  • wokeness n. the fact or quality of being alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice
  • workation n. a working vacation; a holiday during which one also works
  • Zoombombing n. the practice of infiltrating video conference calls on the Zoom application, and posting violent, pornographic, or offensive content

Personally, I’ve never heard of Anthropause, Blursday, Doomscrolling, Hygiene Theater, Sanny, and Veronica Bucket before reading this report while others are new to me this year.

And if I had to pick just one, I think I’d go with… drum roll…

DOOMSCROLLING – something I certainly have been guilty of this year. I just didn’t know it had a name.

followed closely by BLURSDAY…

17 thoughts on “Oxford Dictionary’s Word(s) of the Year

  1. I am with the rest of your readers. My favorite is “Blursday”. It seems an appropriate example of the overall effect of 2020. Can’t wait to see what next year’s word will be. Hope you are well and enjoying your holiday!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Quite a few of these are new to me, which makes me wonder where I’ve been all year! The one that intrigues me is moonshot, defined as ‘an extremely ambitious and innovative project.’ Given that it is the name given by the UK government to its mass testing programme for Covid, I think it should be redefined as ‘wildly unrealistic and incompetent.’


  3. This is a great list. Zoomscrolling left me with a thought though. What will happen when normalcy (or some form of it) resumes? be it the end of the current administration, or the end of the pandemic. Are we now wired for doom as part of our daily routine? Are we going to suffer withdrawal?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gotta go with Blursday. I’ve never heard of about half of these words. And most of these are actually phrases, or more than one word. I wonder how Oxford defines the word, “word”?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I recently read that Miriam Webster’s word of the year is ‘pandemic’. Love covidiot. Been using it for a long time, no brainer that everyone seemed to come up with it lol. 🙂


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