The English language had to adapt rapidly and repeatedly this year. Given the phenomenal breadth of language change and development during this year, the Oxford English Dictionary concluded that 2020 was a year which could not be neatly accommodated in one single word, the report read.
The UK-based project said that the emergence of a global pandemic has prompted an uptick in the usage of specialized epidemiological terminology, such as R number.
Covid-19 is a completely new word this year. First recorded on 11th February in a report by @WHO as an abbreviation of “coronavirus disease 2019”, it quickly overtook CORONAVIRUS in frequency. #WOTY2020https://t.co/EhuCm2znY4 pic.twitter.com/6TtiMrfO0P— Oxford Languages (@OxLanguages) November 23, 2020
"In a short period of time specialist epidemiological and medical vocabulary entered everyday discourse, such as the R number and community transmission," the report said.
In total, the OED named 16 words or phrases linked to events that have taken place in 2020, including "impeachment" and "mail-in" in light of US domestic politics, "lockdown" and "social distancing" in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic, and "Black Lives Matter" and "BIPOC [Black, indigenous, and people of color]" in relation to the US civil rights movement.
Earlier in November, the Collins English Dictionary named "lockdown" its word of 2020.