Cambridge Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2020

Our Word of the Year 2020 is… quarantine. Our data shows 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 the week of 18-24 March, when many countries around the world went into lockdown as a result of COVID-19. Continue reading “Cambridge Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2020”

New words – 23 November 2020

VICTOR HABBICK VISIONS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty

genetic scissors noun [plural]
UK /dʒəˈnet.ɪk.ˈsɪz.əz/ US /dʒəˈnet̬.ɪk.ˈsɪz.ɚz/
a method of cutting the DNA in a cell so that it can be repaired

Researchers need to modify genes in cells if they are to find out about life’s inner workings. This used to be time-consuming, difficult and sometimes impossible work. Using the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors, it is now possible to change the code of life over the course of a few weeks.
[nobelprize.org, 7 October 2020]

lyfe noun [U]
/laɪf/, /lɔɪf/
any form of life, including but not limited to the human, animal and plant life we are aware of

“Lyfe” is a recent scientific coinage defined as any system that combines four processes: “dissipation, autocatalysis, homeostasis, and learning”. Life in the familiar sense is merely “the instance of lyfe that we are familiar with on Earth”, but other much weirder types might exist.
[www.theguardian.com, 6 August 2020]

gigafactory noun [C]
/ˌgɪg.ə.ˈfæk.tᵊr.i/
a very large factory where batteries for electric vehicles are made

A £1.2bn project to build Britain’s first ‘gigafactory’ to supply electric batteries for the UK car industry could unravel without changes to UK state aid rules, according to the company’s chief executive.
[telegraph.co.uk, 4 October 2020]

About new words

At the crack of dawn: Idioms used for speaking about time

Tim Robberts/Stone/Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

During the course of a day, we make repeated references to time, whether we’re worrying about being late for an appointment or expressing surprise at how quickly something has happened. Any concept that we frequently convey is likely to have idioms associated with it. This post looks at those idioms, as always, focusing on phrases that are frequent and current.

Continue reading “At the crack of dawn: Idioms used for speaking about time”

New words – 16 November 2020

Image Source / DigitalVision / Getty

minimony noun [C]
/ˈmɪnə.mə.ni/
a small wedding ceremony that is held instead of, or before, a bigger celebration

Minimonies are a good compromise for couples who’ve been forced to postpone their weddings due to … COVID-19. A minimony is a wonderful way to honor and celebrate your original wedding date. You can choose to get legally married at your minimony even if you still plan to host a larger celebration at a later time.
[thebudgetsavvybride.com, no date]

microwedding noun [C]
UK /ˈmaɪ.krəʊ.wed.ɪŋ/ US /ˈmaɪ.kroʊ.wed.ɪŋ/
a wedding to which only a small number of guests are invited

Think of a microwedding as a cross between an elopement and a big, traditional wedding … “More is not always necessarily more,” says renowned event planner Stefanie Cove. “A microwedding is for the couple who wants to really focus and spend the majority of their budget on the smaller details, whereas it might be difficult to replicate the same experience for, say, 200 guests.”
[theknot.com, 6 May 2020]

divorce tourism noun [U]
UK /dɪˈvɔːs.tʊə.rɪ.zᵊm/ US /dɪˈvɔːrs.tʊr.ɪ.zᵊm/
the activity of going to another country to take advantage of its divorce laws

Russia’s richest man, Vladmir Potanin, won a London court ruling as part of a long-running legal battle with his former wife after a judge said the English courts shouldn’t be used for “divorce tourism.” The couple divorced in Russia in 2014 and Natalia Potanina had applied to the court for a further award, which would have far outstripped the largest payout in a U.K. divorce.
[bloomberg.com, 8 November 2019]

About new words

You could hear a pin drop: more interesting ways of saying ‘quiet’

Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

by Liz Walter

Quiet is a word that English students learn early in their studies. Today we are going to look at some more specific and subtle ways of talking about quietness and silence.

Continue reading “You could hear a pin drop: more interesting ways of saying ‘quiet’”

New words – 9 November 2020

NicolasMcComber / E+ / Getty Images
mancom noun [C]
UK /ˈmæn.kɒm/ US /ˈmæn.kɑːm/
a romantic comedy film in which the story is seen from the viewpoint of a male character

As men are now being encouraged to talk more and be more open with our feelings, there seems to be a correlation with the rise of the ‘mancom’. That’s a male romantic comedy, as if you didn’t know.
[Sunday Telegraph, 20 September 2020]

Kindie noun [U]
/ˈkɪn.di/
a style of music that appeals equally to children and adults and that is mainly written and performed by independent musicians who do not work for a large music company

In Germany, Baked Beans are the latest exponents of a prospering trend of “Kindie” bands that are wielding serious commercial clout in a music industry transformed by online streaming services.
[The Observer, 12 April 2020]

quit lit noun [U]
/ˈkwɪt.lɪt/
a type of book that gives advice on how to stop drinking alcohol; or a type of book that discusses the experience of resigning from one’s job in academia

Once you start reading quit lit – you can’t help but keep seeking more. As a voracious reader, I get it. Without further ado, I’m bringing you the ultimate quit lit book list along with a few recommendations from other genres that can help continue your journey of discovery.
[thisnakedmind.com, 31 July 2020]

If you’re reading quit lit, you’ve likely been in higher education long enough to have experienced the disillusionment of the academic job market. You understand how universities work and see a need for transformation in the academic job market, in the use of contingent faculty and graduate student labor, and in the structure of PhD programs.
[beyondprof.com, 7 March 2020]

About new words

Extrovert or introvert? (Describing character, part 4)

Francesco Carta fotografo/Moment/Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

Today’s post is the latest in a thread dedicated to describing people’s personalities. We’ve previously looked at adjectives and phrases for people who are relaxed and happy (Part 3), kind and mean (Part 2), and hard-working and lazy (Part 1). Today we focus on words and phrases meaning ‘sociable’ and ‘shy’.

Continue reading “Extrovert or introvert? (Describing character, part 4)”

New words – 2 November 2020

Glasshouse Images / The Image Bank / Getty Images
goldfish generation noun [U]

UK /ˈgəʊld.fɪʃ.ˌdʒen.əˈreɪ.ʃᵊn/ US /ˈgoʊld.fɪʃ.ˌdʒen.əˈreɪ.ʃᵊn/
a way of referring to the group of people who have grown up with smartphones and other technology and have a poor memory and attention span as a result

As a result, it’s feared, both our memories and our concentration are weaker … We have become, it seems, the goldfish generation, yes, the attention span of a goldfish. And it’s not just adults we should be worried about — there’s growing concern about the impact of smart devices on our kids’ brains, concentration levels, and memory capacity too.
[irishexaminer.com, 30 January 2020]

green swan noun [C]
UK /ˌgriːn.ˈswɒn/ US /ˌgriːn.ˈswɑːn/
a very serious event, especially one that causes disruption to the world’s financial markets, that is caused by the effects of climate change

The green swan is different: it graphically describes the sense of urgency now evident in banking boardrooms about global warming, the dire state of the planet and the consequent effects on the finance sector.
[climatenewsnetwork.net, 1 January 2020]

wonderchicken noun [C]
UK /ˈwʌn.də.tʃɪk.ɪn/ US /ˈwʌn.dɚ.tʃɪk.ɪn/
a prehistoric bird that is the oldest known ancestor of today’s ducks and chickens

The animal, affectionately dubbed the ‘wonderchicken’ by the international team of scientists that analysed the fossil, lived 66.7 million years ago, just 700,000 years before the asteroid impact that killed off all non-avian dinosaurs.
[www.nationalgeographic.co.uk, 19 March 2020]

About new words

It makes my flesh crawl: idioms for Halloween

Martin Deja/Moment/Getty Images

by Liz Walter

The evening of October 31st usually sees hordes of children dressed up as ghosts, skeletons or other scary figures, excitedly collecting mountains of sweets on their ‘trick-or-treat’ expeditions. Covid-19 has paused many of these activities, but I hope you will still enjoy this post on spooky idioms! Continue reading “It makes my flesh crawl: idioms for Halloween”

New words – 26 October 2020

Peter Cade / Stone / Getty

Blue Health noun [U]
/ˌbluːˈhelθ/
the benefits to your physical and mental health that come from spending time in, on, or near water

The healing power of water is a phenomenon now being labelled “Blue Health”, and is one that scientists are starting to examine in earnest. One of the biggest research projects is led by the European Centre for Environment and Human Health based at the University of Exeter. It involves more than 90 experts across the continent, and is due to report on the bulk of its findings at the end of the year.
[telegraph.co.uk, 15 August 2020]

grounding noun [U]
/ˈgraʊn.dɪŋ/
an activity that involves direct contact with the Earth, such as walking barefoot outdoors, thought by some people to increase physical and mental health

The simplest and most natural method of grounding is to go outdoors and place your bare feet and hands directly on the earth—many people choose to go for a barefoot walk in the park or on the beach. (A note: Walking barefoot in your home, where minimally conductive or nonconductive materials like concrete foundations and hardwood floors insulate us from the earth’s electric potential, will not have the same effect.)
[www.goop.com, no date]

empowerment space noun [C]
UK /ɪmˈpaʊə.mənt.speɪs/ US /ɪmˈpaʊ.ɚ.mənt.speɪs/
a place where people can attend different types of classes and workshops in order to improve their mental and emotional wellbeing

Britain is finally catching on to one of the biggest trends from America’s east coast: “empowerment spaces” … inspired by cult luxury wellness hubs such as NYC’s The Well. In the UK, an emporium dedicated to mental health called the Soke will open in Chelsea on September 28. Based in a five-storey townhouse, it will offer services inclusing psychiatry, psychotherapy and counselling, as well as leadership development.
[Sunday Times, 6 September 2020]

About new words