‘Quarantine’ is the Cambridge Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2020
Cambridge Dictionary announced quarantine as Word of the Year 2020, after data showed it was one of the most searched words in the Cambridge Dictionary this year.
Quarantine was the only word to rank in the top five for search peaks and overall views (over 183,000 at the start of November), with the largest spike in searches (28,545) seen the week of November 18-18. March 24, when many countries around the world were locked down due to COVID-19.
Cambridge Dictionary editors have also tracked how people use quarantine, and discovered a new emerging meaning: a general period during which people are not allowed to leave their homes or travel freely, so as not to catch or spread disease. Research shows that the word is used as a synonym for confinement, especially in the United States, to refer to a situation in which people stay at home to avoid catching the disease.
This new sense of quarantine has now been added to the Cambridge dictionary and marks a change from existing meanings which relate to containing a person or animal suspected of being contagious: a specific period of time that a person or animal that has a disease, or may have a disease, must stay or be kept away from others in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
Wendalyn Nichols, editor of the Cambridge Dictionary, said: “The words people search for reveal not just what is happening in the world, but what matters most to them in relation to those events.
‘No more coronavirus or COVID-19[female[feminine were among the most searched words by Cambridge Dictionary users this year. We think this indicates that people are quite confident about the nature of the virus. Instead, users searched for words related to the social and economic impacts of the pandemic, as evidenced by not only quarantine but by the two shortlisted Word of the Year finalists: confinement, and pandemic himself.’
Cambridge Dictionary’s most viewed blog post this year was Quarantine, carriers and masks: the language of the coronavirus, which garnered nearly 80,000 views in the first six weeks of its February 26 posting, and now ranks as the ninth most viewed. About words post in the nearly ten years that the blog has been live. The post covers a range of related terms, such as infectious, contagious, carriers, super spreaders, and symptoms, as well as expressions such as contract a virus, a pic of cases, contain the spread, and develop a vaccine.
Cambridge Dictionary editors regularly monitor a wide range of sources for new words and meanings that are added to the online dictionary each month. On the ‘New Words’ blog, potential new additions are posted weekly for readers to vote on if they think these words should be added. In a recent survey, 33% of respondents said fortyam—combining quarantine and team, sense a group of people entering quarantine together– should be added to the dictionary. Other suggestions include portmanteau words quarantine, coronary, and lockstalgia.