2020 Gave Us a Whole New Vocabulary

A quick guide to all the words we learned this year that capture the 2020 mood.
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Photo: Priscilla Du Preez, courtesy of Unsplash

The year 2020 might have given us hell, but as it comes to a close, we must give some credit where it’s due. Never before has a year enriched our collective vocabulary with so many new words. Some words like “face masks” and “symptoms” have taken on completely new meanings, while we didn’t even know some words like “pandemic” and “self-isolation” already existed. This year, we’ve used these words so often that we can’t believe they weren’t known to us at birth. 


“Pandemic” was also chosen by both and Merriam-Webster as their “Word of the Year 2020”, which goes to show how well this word sums up the year we’ve all had. I’m not surprised, I think this word makes an appearance in almost every conversation we have these days. The Oxford English Dictionary couldn’t find one word that would do justice to this year, so it chose a bunch of “Words of an Unprecedented Year”. Most of these words were related to the pandemic (there we go again!), namely “Covid-19”, “WFH”, “lockdown”, “circuit-breaker”, “support bubbles”, “keyworkers”, and “furlough”. In addition to these, we think there are many other words that capture the 2020 mood.

So, we’ve created a lexicon of words we couldn’t possibly relate to before 2020, that have grown over the year to take on mundane, everyday usage to describe our collective 2020 lives.


Someone who violates public health guidelines with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic
Usage: I stepped out after months only to see all these covidiots going around without masks. Nope, I'm going back in!


A bubble of people who either quarantine together or form a close-knit social circle and don’t interact with other people outside of it
Usage: I love you so much you’d be the first person on my quaranteam.


Restriction on someone’s movement in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when they might have been exposed to the virus
Usage: I’ve travelled a long distance to get here so it makes sense to quarantine for a couple of weeks before I can hang out with you.


An alcoholic beverage you drink when you're self-isolating or locked down
Usage: I saw another marriage update on Facebook just as I was about to make myself a quarantini. Gonna make it extra strong now. 


A coffee drink made by whipping instant coffee, sugar, and hot water that derives its name from a Korean sugar sweet
Usage: So sick of everyone posting pictures of their dalgona coffee like it’s an achievement. It’s not even real coffee.



Continuously scrolling through your social media and news apps for latest updates about a catastrophe
Usage: After doomscrolling for two hours, I’m convinced that the pandemic is never going to end.

FaceTime photoshoot

Posing while the person on the other end of the FaceTime call takes pictures of you
Usage: I just ordered some clothes online to wear for the FaceTime photoshoot we’ve planned for next week.


The medication that Donald Trump thinks cures COVID, but is ineffective in reality
Usage: You know Hydroxychloroquine tablets don’t really cure COVID, right? The most they can do is treat malaria.


Information + epidemic = over-abundant information about a topic, with most of it being deliberate attempts at misinformation 
Usage: COVID-19 isn’t just a pandemic, all the fake news has also turned it into an infodemic now.

Minecraft University

Simulations of real universities and schools created by students on popular video game Minecraft to celebrate events like graduation virtually
Usage: Some people are so good at Minecraft they’re building a whole-ass university!

Patient zero

The first human infected by a viral or bacterial disease in an outbreak
Usage: It’s been more than a year since China saw its patient zero.


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protects the wearer against health or safety risks at work, and includes items like goggles, helmets, or other garments designed to protect against infection
Usage: Our medical staff doesn’t have enough PPE kits to handle this outbreak but people think showing our appreciation by clapping for them is a good way to address this.

Second wave

A sustained rise in infections that follows an initial decline considered to be the end of the first wave
Usage: The second wave is coming, better keep your masks and sanitiser handy.

Social distancing

Keeping a safe distance of at least six feet between you and anyone else who doesn’t live in the same household to prevent the spread of COVID-19
Usage: I know social distancing started formally during the pandemic but I feel like I’ve already been doing it for years.

The new normal

The state of affairs after the major changes caused by the pandemic. The new normal encourages people to make the best of the current state of affairs.
Usage: If one more person tells me that wearing a face shield to a club is embracing the new normal, I’m gonna lose it.


An acronym for work from home, it means working remotely from places other than the office, that became a necessity during the pandemic
Usage: My company finally decided to WFH which means my dream of wearing pyjamas to work is finally coming true.


Zoom fatigue

Exhaustion caused by having to be present and engaged on video-conferencing apps all the time, from school to work to calls with family and friends
Usage: I don’t know what hurts more, my butt, my back, my eyes, or my cheeks from having to smile the whole time. Must be the Zoom fatigue.


Unwanted, disruptive intrusion by hackers or Internet trolls into a video-conference call
Usage: I was trying to pay attention in online class when all of a sudden the session was Zoombombed by some jerk flashing his dick for everyone to see.

Discord server

A community made to communicate with other users on Discord, an American group-chatting platform originally built for gamers
Usage: My favourite Instagram artist is now taking requests on her Discord server, I’m excited!

Among Us

A mobile/PC game that came out in 2018 but gained popularity during the pandemic and has been called “the ideal deception game”
Usage: I don’t even like games but I’ve been playing Among Us all day today.

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