Collins reveals word of the year for 2020

Police patrol the streets of Glasgow as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the

Police patrol the streets of Glasgow as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA. - Credit: PA

Collins Dictionary has named “lockdown” as its Word of the Year 2020 after a sharp increase in its usage amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The dictionary said it added the term because it “encapsulates the shared experience of billions of people who have had to restrict their daily lives in order to contain the virus”.

Collins’ lexicographers registered over a quarter of a million usages of “lockdown” during 2020, against only 4,000 the previous year.

According to the dictionary, lockdown is defined as “the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces”.

It came into common parlance as Government’s around the world responded to the spread of Covid-19 in early 2020.


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Collins’ annual 10-strong list of additions is dominated by words and phrases relating to the pandemic, including “furlough”, “key worker”, “self-isolate” and “social distancing”.

“Coronavirus” itself also features.

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“Key worker” has seen a 60-fold increase in usage reflecting the importance attributed to professions considered to be essential to society.

Social and political upheavals such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the withdrawal of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from royal duties also influence the list.

Following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in the US, the abbreviation “BLM” features after registering an increase in usage of 581% by Collins.

“Megxit”, which is modelled on the word “Brexit” – Collins’ Word of the Year 2016, makes the list following Harry and Meghan’s move to the US.

“TikToker” describes someone who shares content on the TikTok social media platform, while “mukbang” originated in South Korea and describes a host who broadcasts videos of themselves eating a large quantity of food.

Helen Newstead, language content consultant at Collins, said: “Language is a reflection of the world around us and 2020 has been dominated by the global pandemic.

“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.

“Lockdown has affected the way we work, study, shop, and socialize.

“With many countries entering a second lockdown, it is not a word of the year to celebrate but it is, perhaps, one that sums up the year for most of the world.”

Last year’s word of the year was “climate strike” marking a year in which 17-year-old Greta Thunberg led a global environmental movement.

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