‘Quarantine’ named Cambridge Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2020

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on November 25, 2020 Published on November 25, 2020

A health worker sanitises a Covid-19 quarantine centre with 1,100 beds at the CIDCO Exhibition Centre in Vashi, Navi Mumbai. - PTI

Cambridge Dictionary has named ‘quarantine’ as Word of the Year 2020.

The word has been named the word of the year based on data that showed that it was one of the most highly searched words on the Cambridge Dictionary this year.

“Quarantine was the only word to rank in the top five for both search spikes and overall views (more than 183,000 by early November), with the largest spike in searches (28,545) seen in the week of March 18-24 , when many countries around the world went into lockdown as a result of Covid-19,” as per an official release.

Cambridge editors have noticed that people are using the word in a new way this year describing a “general period of time in which people are not allowed to leave their homes or travel freely, so that they do not catch or spread a disease.”

“Research shows the word is being used synonymously with lockdown, particularly in the United States, to refer to a situation in which people stay home to avoid catching the disease,” it said.

This new sense of quarantine has now been added to the Cambridge Dictionary.

Existing meanings of the word include: “a specific period of time in which a person or animal that has a disease, or may have one, must stay or be kept away from others in order to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Wendalyn Nichols, Cambridge Dictionary Publishing Manager, said, “The words that people search for reveal not just what is happening in the world, but what matters most to them in relation to those events.”

“Neither coronavirus nor Covid-19 appeared among the words that Cambridge Dictionary users searched for most this year. We believe this indicates that people have been fairly confident about what the virus is. Instead, users have been searching for words related to the social and economic impacts of the pandemic, as evidenced not just by quarantine but by the two runners-up on the shortlist for Word of the Year: lockdown, and pandemic itself,” Nichols added.

Interestingly, ‘Lockdown’ had been named word of the year by Collins Dictionary earlier this month.

“Our lexicographers chose ‘lockdown’ as Word of the Year because it is a unifying experience for billions of people across the world, who have had, collectively, to play their part in combating the spread of Covid-19. Collins registered over a quarter of a million usages of ‘lockdown’ during 2020, against only 4,000 the previous year,” it had said.

Meanwhile Oxford English Dictionary was unable to pick a word to sum up 2020. It had then released a report marking word that sum up all that has happened this year including Cvid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“2020 is not a year that could neatly be accommodated in one single “word of the year”, so we have decided to report more expansively on the phenomenal breadth of language change and development over the year in our Words of an Unprecedented Year report,” it had said.

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Published on November 25, 2020
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