It’s doubtful one word has ever had such an impact on the world in one year. Everyone on Earth has now heard of coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, all synonyms for COVID-19. According to BetOnline.AG, it’s by far the favorite for Merriam-Webster’s 2020 Word of the Year.
The singular “they” took the honor in 2019 for its impact on describing nonbinary gender individuals. Impeach narrowly lost, with Webster crediting a 300% increase in lookups of “they.” Various categories, nonetheless, competed for relevancy.
It’s all about coronavirus in 2020, the sickness that has shut down economies across the globe in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 (-155 for word of the year). The conversation about limiting the strain on hospitals has given rise to other word of the year contenders, including coronavirus (+200), social distancing (+200), self-quarantine (+400), pandemic (+500) and work from home (+700).
Election (+2000) and Amazon.com (+1400) figure as stories that could emerge later in the year, but for now the race for most relevant word of 2020 is entirely dictated by how COVID-19 has changed the world. There’s no better word for now to bet on for now, with months likely ahead entirely predicated on what decisions leaders around the world make to respond to the virus. Whenever lockdowns end, no one will forget the impact of it before 2020 ends.
The culture of this moment is resonating widely too, with Tiger King a constant conversation online alongside upcoming Survivor and American Idol seasons.
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