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2020 Word of the Year is “Covid”

December 17th, 2020 § Comments Off on 2020 Word of the Year is “Covid” § permalink

In a selection that was held virtually for the first time ever, “Covid” was chosen as Word of the Year (2020) by the American Dialect Society in its annual vote. It was the 30th anniversary of the society’s original Word of the Year vote in December 1990. While the selection is typically held in person at the society’s annual meeting, this time the event was conducted as a webinar open to all who were interested in attending via Zoom. More than three hundred attendees took part in the deliberations and voting.

Presiding at the Dec. 17 voting session was Ben Zimmer, chair of the ADS New Words Committee and language columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

“A year ago, the word Covid didn’t even exist, and now it has come to define our lives in 2020,” Zimmer said. “The selection recognizes how ubiquitous the term has become, from the time that the name for the disease caused by novel coronavirus was dubbed Covid-19 by the World Health Organization back in February. That was quickly clipped to Covid, which then appeared in phrases like Covid crisis, Covid relief, and Covid vaccine – and even Covid baking, Covid hair, and covidiot. It has become a stand-in for the entire pandemic and the societal impacts that we’ll be experiencing for years to come.”

Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as “vocabulary item”—not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year.

The vote is the longest-running such vote anywhere, the only one not tied to commercial interests, and the word-of-the-year event up to which all others lead. It is fully informed by the members’ expertise in the study of words, but it is far from a solemn occasion.

Members in the 131-year-old organization include linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, editors, students, and independent scholars. In conducting the vote, they act in fun and do not pretend to be officially inducting words into the English language. Instead, they are highlighting that language change is normal, ongoing, and entertaining.

Read the full press release, including all winners, candidates, and vote tallies for all candidates.

All previous years’ winners are listed here.


Nominations for Words of the Year 2020

December 17th, 2020 § Comments Off on Nominations for Words of the Year 2020 § permalink

Nominations for Words of the Year 2020 follow below.
The final selection will be held at 7 p.m. EST on Thursday, December 17th in a virtual livestream vote.

American Dialect Society Words of the Year (2020)

NOMINATIONS to be voted on in the Word of the Year virtual event, Dec. 17, 2020 


  • abolish/defund: verbs used (at times hyperbolically) to call for drastic restructuring or reforming of law enforcement in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police
  • dissent collar: jabot collar worn by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when issuing dissenting opinions, and worn by others in her honor after her death  
  • freedumb: reckless or thoughtless invocation of “freedom,” for instance in refusing to wear a mask 
  • petromasculinity: form of masculinity on display during pro-Trump highway rallies 
  • red mirage/blue shift: appearance from early returns in the 2020 presidential election that voting was skewing toward Republicans before more Democratic-leaning votes were counted


  • #BlackInTheIvory: hashtag used to amplify the voices of Black scholars and their experiences of systemic racism within academia
  • doomscrolling: obsessively scanning social media and websites for bad news
  • fancam: video clip made by a fan of a musical act, especially a K-Pop band, which can be used to derail an online conversation or as a form of subversive political protest; also a verb
  • sus: clipping of “suspicious” often used in the game Among Us to label a player suspected of being an impostor 
  • TikToked: to be made the target of a campaign mobilizing TikTok users, as for political purposes 

ZOOM-RELATED WORD OF THE YEAR (special category)

  • oysgezoomt: fatigued or bored by Zoom (formed in Yiddish) 
  • you’re muted: weary refrain on Zoom to remind someone to unmute when speaking
  • Zoombombing: disruptive intrusion on a Zoom session by online trolls
  • Zoom fatigue: exhaustion experienced by being over-exposed to Zoom
  • zumping: [Zoom + dumping] breaking up with someone via Zoom


  • contact tracing: the process of identifying who may have come into contact with a person carrying an infectious disease like coronavirus
  • coronials: the coronavirus generation, for the predicted baby boom in the wake of the pandemic 
  • COVID-19, Covid: the disease caused by infection from novel coronavirus
  • flattening the curve: the effort to slow the spread of coronavirus by taking community isolation measures 
  • moronavirus: disparaging term for foolish behavior or ideas related to the coronavirus pandemic


  • covidiot: a person who foolishly ignores COVID-19 protocols
  • girls, gays, and theys: inclusive form of address encompassing female-identifying, LGBTQ, and nonbinary identities
  • poggers: term used to denote excitement, derived from a Twitch emote showing someone with a surprised expression
  • the rona: playful term for “coronavirus” (also: Rona, Miss Rona, Aunt Rona)
  • WAP: acronym for “wet-ass pussy,” from the song of that title by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion


  • essential (workers, labor, businesses): used for people, often underpaid, who are actually treated as expendable because they are required to work and thus risk infection from coronavirus
  • everything is cake: expression of extreme distrust, based on memes in which objects turn out to be hyper-realistic cakes  
  • freedom seeds: nickname for ammunition used by the National Rifle Association
  • humaning: marketing term for a consumer-oriented approach
  • Toobin, v.: to expose oneself on Zoom in the manner of Jeffrey Toobin


  • 👉👈 (two fingers touching): used to indicate shyness, hesitation, or pleading
  • 🥺 (face with pleading eyes): used for timid begging or beseeching, or to react to cute things 
  • 👁👄👁 (eye mouth eye): “It is what it is,” also used to express amazement, shock, disgust, or confusion.
  • ✍️ (writing hand): used for bullet-pointed lists of how to fix things
  • 😷 (face with medical mask): indicating mask-wearing during the pandemic

MOST CREATIVE (combining forms)

  • corona-: as in coronasomnia, coronababies, coronacut, coronacation, coronabros
  • fatigue: as in Covid fatigue, lockdown fatigue, pandemic fatigue, Zoom fatigue 
  • mask-: as in maskne (acne caused by mask-wearing), maskhole, mask break
  • quaran-: as in quarantini, quaranteam, quaranbeard, quarantigue
  • Zoom-: as in Zoombombing, Zoom mom, Zoom party, Zoom school 


  • Before Times: the time before the beginning of the pandemic
  • Blursday: humorous indication of difficulty in determining what day of the week it is
  • bubble/pod: terms for the group with which one remains in quarantine
  • PPE: abbreviation for personal protective equipment
  • superspreader: a patient or event responsible for spreading infection to many people 


  • antiracism: the practice of actively working to prevent or combat racism
  • BIPOC: acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Color
  • contactless: requiring no physical contact, to avoid transmitting disease 
  • curbside: adjacent to a curb, as for pickup of goods without entering a store or restaurant
  • gigafire: a wildfire that burns at least a million acres of land
  • Zoomer: term for Generation Z, previously a play on boomer but now highlighting their use of Zoom for remote learning and other activities 


  • antiracism: the practice of actively working to prevent or combat racism
  • Before Times: the time before the beginning of the pandemic
  • BIPOC: acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Color
  • Blursday: humorous indication of difficulty in determining what day of the week it is
  • covidiot: a person who foolishly ignores COVID-19 protocols
  • doomscrolling: obsessively scanning social media and websites for bad news
  • pandemic: epidemic over a wide area affecting a large proportion of the population
  • social distancing: keeping away from others as much as possible to prevent the spread of coronavirus 
  • 2020: used to sum up chaotic and despondent feelings inspired by the year’s events  
  • Zoom- (combining form): as in Zoombombing, Zoom mom, Zoom party, Zoom school


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