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'Lockdown' is Word of the Year. But Here are 10 Other English Words That Finally Arrived in 2020

Covid-19 lockdown has changed the way we speak in more ways than we realise | Image credit: Reuters (Image for representation)

Covid-19 lockdown has changed the way we speak in more ways than we realise | Image credit: Reuters (Image for representation)

The coronavirus pandemic changed the way we speak. From 'sanitiser' to 'essential', the 'pandemic' made us realise that language is the product of the times we live in.

The coronavirus lockdown has changed the way we think and speak. This, perhaps, is best reflected in the word “lockdown" becoming Word of the Year in 2020 as per Collins Dictionary.

Collins registered more than a quarter of a million usages of “lockdown" during 2020, against only 4,000 the previous year. Seems only fair since all that we did this year was spend time in a state of lockdown. As the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic led to a lockdown in almost every country on Earth, Collins registered more than a quarter of a million usages of “lockdown" during 2020, against only 4,000 the previous year.

But lockdown is not the only word that was overused in 2020. Here are some other words that we think could also have been named ‘Word of the Year’.


These aren’t necessarily new or fancy words. But these are words that many of us have become so used to using in the past year that they almost feel like they are part of life now.


This one’s our favorite and one that we didn’t really use as much (or ever) before the Covid-19 pandemic. There, we did it again. A pandemic refers to an epidemic or outbreak of a disease that occurred globally in multiple countries together. Though pandemics have happened before, the Covid-19 pandemic is perhaps the first pandemic to be covered and prolifically written about even as it unfolded. Within just a few days, the pandemic became part of every English-speaking (and some even non-English speaking) person’s vocabulary. And it is definitely one of the top words to describe 2020.


The Covid-19 pandemic made ‘masks’ an essential part of life. A word rarely used in a day’s conversation before, the pandemic ensured that the word became hep once again by making it one of the most used words of 2020. While previously humans were just masking their emotions, masks have now become a common part of everyday life. Just like we can’t live without food or water, humans can’t survive without masks anymore. Even if Donald Trump and Republicans believe otherwise.


This is one of the more depressing ones. A word that we rarely used in common parlance, quarantine has to be one of the top words of 2020 as the year saw many, many people actually experience it while the rest of the world dreaded it. To date, there have been nearly 52.2 million cases of coronavirus. It is safe to say that the majority of these patients were quarantined, irrespective of whether they made it out of the quarantine or not. That means millions of people experienced what previously few people knew about or spoke about. Quarantines gave rise to a new culture of isolation that is unprecedented for humans.


Which brings us to the next word - ‘isolation’. Because we feel this list would be incomplete if we did not include ‘isolation’ as one of the top words in 2020. This is because isolation has been a big part of 2020. Whether it was the months of being alone and isolating during lockdown to ensure you did not catch or spread coronavirus, to the continued form of more permanent isolation meaning no social calls or gatherings, no travel, no eating out or going to watch plays or movies or even hit the gym. Humans beings are social creatures who like to touch. 2020 changed that, making isolation and essential for survival.


While some words came out of their obscurity, 2020 also made us reconsider the known meanings of words. The word ‘essential’, for instance, underwent a huge change after the coronavirus pandemic reshaped what humans thought was absolutely necessary for survival. While many of us thought going to the gym or the parlour was an essential part of our routines, others thought meeting family and friends and travelling was an essential part of life. Many of us thought celebrating birthdays or weddings was essential. Nearly everyone thought physical schooling was essential for children to grow. But the coronavirus changed all that. Now, essential means food and beverage supplies, sanitation workers and healthcare facilities. Everything else is negotiable or easier done online.


Speaking of essentials, how can we forget this one. Sanitisers have become a must-have in life for one simple reason - it kills the virus. And as well all agree, killing the virus is an important first step against it killing us. If 2020 had a smell, it would be that of a sanitiser.

Postponed or Cancelled

2020 was also the year of the most postponed plans. Due to the lockdown, students across the world had their exams postponed. Many weddings were postponed, concerts and film releases were delayed, protests were cancelled mid-way and world sporting events delayed. Even as some of the events have since taken place, many annual events were cancelled altogether. Festivals were cancelled. 2020, basically, was cancelled.


Even as things are slowly inching back to a “new normal", here is yet another word (or phrase) that we never thought would become so used. Social distancing refers to maintaining social distance with other humans in order to limit the spread of the virus. This is one of the only forms of interaction allowed anymore. Who would have thought?


And while we talk of the new normal in 2020, let’s not forget the humble Zoom call whivh allowed million of humans to contact loved ones or get office work done during the pandemic. Zoom, which comes from ‘Zoom calls’, is is definitely one of the top contenders for Word of the year. If 1876 was the year of the telephone and 1925 became the year of the television, 2020 will definitely be known as the year of Zoom calls.


While the coronavirus pandemic has led to a year filled with dread, despair and gloom, it has also in a way restored our faith in humanity and humans. The pandemic revealed to us the strength and grit humans possess when faced with advreisities. the word ‘corona-warriors’ is thus a tribute to the fighting human spirit that refuses to die down, no matter what the challenge. It is a tribute to all these people who ensured that even in times of a deadly pandemic, hope sprang eternal and humanity prevalied.

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