After Collins Dictionary named “lockdown” as its Word of the Year 2020, the Cambridge Dictionary has announced that its Word of the Year 2020 is “quarantine”.
Like the Collins Word of the Year, its increase in usage is a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Cambridge Dictionary revealed that quarantine was the third most looked-up word overall this year – and comes out on top if you discount words that recur most years, “hello” in first and “dictionary” in second place. However, the words “pandemic” and “lockdown” were also among the most looked-up between January and the end of October this year. Cambridge Dictionary says that there was a surge of searches for quarantine in the week of 18-24 March, when restrictions started to be imposed in many countries due to Covid-19.
The editors tracked how people were using the word quarantine and as a result have added an extra meaning to the dictionary: “A general period of time in which people are not allowed to leave their homes or travel freely, so that they do not catch or spread a disease.” This is a shift from existing meanings that relate to containing a person or animal suspected of being contagious. Research indicates that the word is being used synonymously with lockdown, particularly in the United States, to refer to a situation in which people stay home to avoid catching the disease.
Several new words have been added to the dictionary which relate to the pandemic, including “Covid-19”. Others include “HyFlex”, which is short for hybrid flexible and denotes a type of teaching in which some students are physically present in class and others join the class using the internet; “Elbow bump”, a greeting in which people touch elbows; and “social distancing”, to describe the practice of keeping away from others to stop the spread of disease.
The editors asked readers in a poll if they thought other new words should be added to the dictionary, and this is what they came up with:
- Quaranteam: A group of people who go into quarantine together
- Lockstalgia: A feeling of nostalgia for the lockdown period of the Covid-19 pandemic
- Quaranteen: A teenager in the time of the Covid-19 lockdown
- Coronnial: Someone who was born around the time of the Covid-19 pandemic
However, the Dictionary believes that use of these words will be fleeting, and none of them have been added to the dictionary at this time.