Published:  04:37 PM, 05 May 2021

New Dictionary Words for 2020

New Dictionary Words for 2020

Md. Raihan Kabir Prince

It’s time to rise and shine and start with a clean sheet of paper to note down the new words and phrases that have been officially released during 2020 – the threatening, frightening year of planet-spanning pandemic, which is still looming large. Rightfully, all the major dictionary publishers have stepped up to the task and brought, at long last, some of the most important new words, including a handful of Covid-related technical and specialized terms to last year’s edition. As advanced, as timely, and as much needed as they are, these literary list toppers are also relatively side-splitting, free-ranging, and mostly addictive for readers.

On the writer side, I am so hype about these new dictionary words being released every year that I keep them constantly blipping on my radar and most dutifully write yearly think pieces on the newest collection, which language learners can’t afford to miss. It’s a writing tradition I’ve been slaving over since 2010. And I almost feel like I have been doing this since my diaper days. Thanks in no small part to the amazing crew of dictionary writers, compilers and editors at Oxford and Merriam-Webster, who constantly keep track of the changes in the English language by monitoring and publishing the regular influx of new trendy terms ranging from pop-culture to politics, to food and all the way to fashion. So if you want to learn something that will guarantee a good, resounding vocabulary in the future, maybe a running list of new words is not such a bad gamble.

To their credit, Merriam-Webster lays proud claim to a remarkable list of new words and entries they have added last year, including a page full of “just in case” Covid-centric terms. So here is the Merriam-Webster collection you will enjoy adding to your vocabulary:

self-isolate: to isolate or separate oneself or itself from others.

contactless: not requiring touching or interaction between people. Example sentence: ‘Many restaurants have rolled out home delivery along with contactless options, leaving food orders on door steps.’

WFH: an abbreviation for “working from home.” Example sentence: ‘For some, “WFH,” or “working from home” can mean a drastic lifestyle switch, and your home might be ill-prepared for it.’

intensivist: a physician who specializes in the care and treatment of patients in intensive care.

epidemic curve: a visual representation in the form of a graph or chart depicting the onset and progression of an outbreak of disease.

community immunity: a reduction in the risk of infection with a specific communicable disease that occurs when a significant proportion of the population has become immune to infection (as because of previous exposure or vaccination).

iatrophobia: intense fear of doctors.

deepfake: an image or recording that has been convincingly altered and manipulated to misrepresent someone as doing or saying something that was not actually done or said. Example sentence: ‘Two artists and an advertising company created a deepfake of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg saying things he never said.’

deep web: the set of web pages on the World Wide Web that are not indexed by search engines but that may be viewable in a standard Web browser (as by logging in to a website).

fat-shaming: the act or practice of subjecting someone perceived as fat or overweight to criticism or mockery.

The trusty Oxford English Dictionary also has a host of thrilling new words for 2020, including:

climate emergency: a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.

freegan: (blend of free and vegan) a person who only eats food that they can get for free and that would usually be thrown out or wasted.

hellacious: extremely difficult or bad. Example sentence: ‘Hellacious traffic.’

nomophobia: fear or worry at the idea of being without your phone or unable to use it.

The more popular and handy is head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of adding the latest and the greatest. Also, it offers the right remedy and the appropriate form of wording solution to the ongoing Covid crisis:

viral load: the amount of a virus in a given quantity of blood, saliva, mucus, or other bodily fluid, often expressed as the number of viral particles per milliliter of the fluid. Example sentence: ‘The droplets from a flu-infected person’s sneeze leave their viral load on whatever surface they land on.’

social distance: a safe or appropriate distance or amount of space between two people or between people in a group. Example sentence: ‘Stay at a social distance of a few feet from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.’

sharent: (blend of share and parent) to frequently use social media to share photos or other details and information about one’s child. Example sentence: ‘If you’re going to sharent, be sure to check your privacy settings to control who sees your posts.’

GOAT: an abbreviation for “greatest of all time.” Example sentence: ‘The new iPhone is the GOAT.’

And lastly, here’s the unlikeliest collection of Covid-related terms, being commonly used during this ongoing pandemic. Officially, none of these words have been included in any of the major dictionaries yet. But due to popular usage, these Covid-centric words have been making a growing impact on the social media scene around the world. So here goes the unofficial Covid collection:

covidiots: lay people, novices in most aspects of the pandemic.

covidiocy: a state of being a lay man or a novice in things related COVID-19.

covicorrupt: describes people, politicians enriching themselves through the pandemic.

covidize: to overtly, covertly, mistakenly or deliberately infect others with the virus.

coviddead: people that died from the pandemic.

covideath: state of dying from the pandemic.

Now that your new vocabulary is off to a flying start, you can go ahead and do a full sweep on the web to find these new words by visiting Oxford’s official website: & Merriam Webster’s website: and for extra information on these new words, including hot tips, more example sentences, grammar and spelling guidance.

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