Each year, Collins English Dictionary takes on the unfathomable task of distilling the annual zeitgeist into a single word. Whilst this may seem impossible, this year’s attempt may be the closest to success yet, with ‘lockdown’ feeling near-synonymous with 2020.
Other words proposed by Collins included 'coronavirus', 'furlough' and 'self-isolate'. All things considered, a fairly pessimistic mood hangs over the shortlist. Can these terms be ignored? Should they? Is it all just one big mess that simply can’t be avoided, or are there silver linings to take from this?
Collins certainly strays towards the latter conclusion - that there are positives to be found in these words. They consider lockdown “a unifying experience for billions of people across the world.” Perhaps they are right. Overcoming unparalleled obstacles, the people of the world have stood together against a common threat.
The fact that all this discourse can arise from a single word is indicative of why such an award is important.
Considered arbitrary to some, a word of the year is a precious time capsule. It can be looked back upon in generations to come as a reminder of what life was at the time. So much power in so few letters.
Lockdown may be a disheartening choice for 2020’s word of the year, but it’s an accurate one. We must accept it and move on. All we can hope for is a better word of the year 2021 - as it will likely embody the spirit and mood of the people. For all we know, it could be ‘cure’, or ‘peace’. Here’s hoping.
Featured image: Tabby Edwards