November 10 (BBC) – “Lockdown” has been declared the word of the year for 2020 by Collins Dictionary, after a sharp rise in its usage during the pandemic.
It “encapsulates the shared experience of billions of people”, Collins said.
Lexicographers registered more than 250,000 usages of “lockdown” during 2020, up from just 4,000 last year.
Other pandemic-linked terms on the 10-strong list include “furlough”, “key worker”, “self-isolate” and “social distancing” as well as “coronavirus”.
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 governments around the world responded to the spread of Covid-19 in early 2020 by placing strict measure to stop transmission of the virus.
Non-virus related words to make the list reflect the social and political upheavals of 2020.
Following the death of the unarmed black man George Floyd in the US the abbreviation “BLM”, for the Black Lives Matter movement, features having registered a 581% increase in usage, according to Collins.
“Megxit”, the term modelled on the word Brexit which was used for the withdrawal of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from royal duties also makes the list.
Social media also plays its part with “TikToker”, describing someone who shares content on platform TikTok and “mukbang” – a term originating in South Korea which describes a host who broadcasts videos of themselves eating large quantities 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.
“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 Collins word of the year was “climate strike”, marking a year in which 17-year-old Greta Thunberg led a global environmental movement.
Previous Collins words of the year
2019: Climate strike
2017: Fake news
The Oxford English Dictionary also choose their own word of the year, opting for “climate emergency” in 2019, “toxic” in 2018, “youthquake” in 2017 and “post-truth” in 2016.