What’s the top word of 2020? Oh, you guessed that one easily

Coronavirus and US political terms dominate the most used words of the year so far

Covid-19: most of Global Language Monitor’s top 10 words of 2020 relate to coronavirus. Photograph: iStock/Getty

Covid-19: most of Global Language Monitor’s top 10 words of 2020 relate to coronavirus. Photograph: iStock/Getty

 

“Covid” is the top word of 2020 so far, according to Global Language Monitor, an American data-research company that tracks trends in worldwide use of the English language.

With at least 100 times more citations than any other word of the year in the 21st century, “it’s no surprise that ‘Covid’ has risen to the top of the rankings,” says Paul Payack, the firm’s president and chief word analyst. The company says its NarrativeTracker software focuses on the internet and on “the top 300,000 print and electronic global media, as well as new social-media sources as they emerge”. The Irish Times has published more than 6,500 articles about coronavirus and its effects this year.

“Covid” comes a place ahead of Covid-19, the official name of the disease caused by the Sars CoV-2 virus, aka coronavirus. Terms from the pandemic also dominate the rest of the top 10. Global Language Monitor’s top 50 terms of 2020 so far are:

1. Covid The shorthand for Covid-19 has the most citations ever recorded in the 21st century

2. Covid-19 The official name of the disease caused by the Sars CoV-2 virus, so named in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases

3. Coronavirus or Sars-CoV-2, the official name of the virus that causes Covid-19

4. Corona From the Latin for “crown”

5. Face mask A face covering that helps halt the spread of Covid-19 to varying degrees, depending on the material and number of layers

6. Progress The belief that society moves ever towards betterment

7. Truth The idea (and accepted, er, truth, at least in everyday life) that there is an objective, discernible reality

8. Social distancing The distance individuals should keep from each other to lessen risk of virus transmission, usually about 2m

9. Trade war Colossal struggle between the United States and China, with worldwide repercussions

10. Sustainability The ability to create an environment that supplies certain needs without compromising future production

11. Flatten the curve During a pandemic, the ability to manage the number of cases so as to not overwhelm the hospital system

12. Lockdown Restricting movement outside homes for locales or geographic districts

13. Identity politics Politics based on certain elements of one’s makeup, such as skin colour, ethnic background or gender

14. Progressives US replacement for the word “liberals”; “liberal” has become a term of abuse in American politics

15. Zoom meeting Group meetings held over videoconferencing channels; popularised during the current pandemic

16. Quarantine Restricting physical movements to one’s home or institution, often separated from all others

17. Migrants People moving from one nation to another

18. Donald Trump Donald J Trump, the 46th, and current, president of the United States

19. Symptoms Physical conditions that may signify the presence of a virus or illness

20. Outbreak The seemingly sudden appearance of a disease in a community or geographic location

21. CDC The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the US department of health, in Atlanta, Georgia

22. Conservatives Adherents of a political philosophy that favours preserving traditional values

23. Unemployment Highest unemployment numbers the US has seen since the Great Recession – and possibly the Depression

24. Climate change The change in Earth’s atmosphere, and its negative effects, as a result of human behaviour. “Climate change” has ranked in the top 10 for the past dozen years or so

25. Hand sanitiser Washing one’s hands with an antibacterial soap for 30 seconds is a strong barrier against Covid-19

26. White privilege Advantages white people are said to have because of their ethnic heritage

27. The pandemic The current global pandemic precipitated by Sars-CoV-2.

28. The virus Shorthand for Covid-19

29. Work at home The result of social-distancing guidelines where employees must stay separated from each other

30. Stimulus Huge, $3 trillion-plus funding effort by the US government to help keep families (and the economy) afloat

31. George Floyd George Floyd, a black American, was killed by a police officer kneeling on his neck for some eight minutes in Minneapolis. His death sparked global protests

32. Black Lives Matter A movement protesting police brutality against African-Americans

33. Woke The state of suddenly becoming aware of social injustices

34. Joe Biden Presumptive presidential nominee of the US Democratic Party against President Trump

35. Wuhan Largest city in central China, capital of Hubei Province, population 11 million; original epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak

36. WHO World Health Organization was established in 1948 by the United Nations as the agency overseeing international public health

37. Disinfectant A chemical agent that kills bacteria

38. New normal The new reality of the pandemic-ravaged world

39. Maga Campaign slogan of President Trump in 2016; it stands for Make America Great Again

40. Fake news Donald Trump’s go-to term for dismissing media coverage of his presidency

41. Shelter-in-place The US term for being confined to one’s home or institution to help prevent the spread of coronavirus

42. Nancy Pelosi The speaker of the United States House of Representatives; the highest-ranked Democratic office holder

43. Self-isolate Quarantined for at least 14 days after being exposed to Covid-19 to help stop the spread of the virus

44. Dr Anthony Fauci Dr Anthony Fauci is director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

45. “I can’t breathe” The last words uttered by George Floyd (see 31, above) as he lay dying at the hands of Minneapolis police

46. Essential workers Those workers who perform “essential” tasks during the coronavirus pandemic, most notably in healthcare, food production and distribution, and the service sector

47. Wet market Outdoor markets that offer recently slaughtered meat, fish and poultry; sometimes including live animals

48. Trump impeachment The Trump impeachment effort ended with a United States Senate vote to acquit on February 5th, 2020, just as the pandemic was taking off in the United States

49. Defund police A movement to refocus US police departments, in some cases by reassigning parts of their budgets, to more community-oriented work

50. Super spreader A single person or event that propagates “clusters” of the coronavirus outbreak. Research shows that about 20 per cent of infected super spreaders could be responsible for 80 per cent of viral transmission

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