News & Opinion | November 10, 2020 11:18 am

“Lockdown” Is the 2020 Word of the Year

Other topical contenders include "social distancing" and, simply, "coronavirus"

word "pandemic" highlighted in dictionary
2020 gave us a crop of new pandemic-related language.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

A weird, sad year is finally coming to an end, which means it’s time to start reflecting on all the specific ways in which 2020 was weird and sad.

Collins Dictionary is the leading the charge, naming “lockdown” the word of the year. The word of the year tends to reflect the cultural temperature of the moment, revealing what new obsessions or innovations have infiltrated the discourse in the past year. In previous years, Collins’ word of the year has been a sign of simpler times, like back in 2015 when the “word” of the year was actually an emoji. In true 2020 fashion, however, this year’s word is about being locked in your house amid a deadly pandemic.

Defined by Collins Dictionary as “the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces,” the word “lockdown” has reportedly seen a 6,000 percent increase in recorded use this year. In 2020, the word was used around a quarter of a million times, up from just 4,000 in 2019.

“Language is a reflection of the world around us, and 2020 has been dominated by the global pandemic,” Collins’ language content consultant, 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.”

Other pandemic-related language that made the year-end list includes terms like “social distancing,” “self-isolate,” “furlough,” and, of course, “coronavirus.”

Here’s hoping for a better crop of words in 2021.