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

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

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

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

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

New words – 19 October 2020

Tom Werner / DigitalVision / Getty

medfluencer noun [C]
UK /ˈmed.flu.ən.səʳ/ US /ˈmed.flu.ən.sɚ/
a medical doctor who gives advice, recommends products etc. on social media

He is a pin-up, albeit one mainly in scrubs. Kharma is part of a new set of social media stars called the medfluencers, doctors with thousands of Instagram followers and YouTube channels where videos get millions of views.
[The Times, 15 August 2020]

digital campfire noun [C]
UK /ˌdɪdʒ.ɪ.tᵊl.ˈkæmp.faɪəʳ/ US /ˌdɪdʒ.ə.t̬ᵊl.ˈkæmp.faɪr/
a small group of people who communicate online, usually on a social media site

If social media can feel like a crowded airport terminal where everyone is allowed, but no one feels particularly excited to be there, digital campfires offer a more intimate oasis where smaller groups of people are excited to gather around shared interests. I’ve identified three categories of digital campfires: private messaging, micro-communities, and shared experiences. Some digital campfires are a combination of all three.
[Harvard Business Review, 5 February 2020]

social listening noun [U]
UK /ˌsəʊ.ʃᵊl.ˈlɪs.ᵊn.ɪŋ/ US /ˌsoʊ.ʃᵊl.ˈlɪs.ᵊn.ɪŋ/
the activity of collecting information from social media sites on what people are saying about a particular topic, such as a product or brand

The number of social media conversations happening at any given time is massive. They ebb and flow with the news and cover any and all topics. From grandparents sharing local, old photos on Facebook groups to endless pop culture debates on Reddit. Social listening, or social media listening, gives you the ability to take all these conversations and get meaningful insights and data out of them.
[brandwatch.com, 1 January 2020]

About new words

New words – 12 October 2020

FollowTheFlow / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Japandi noun [U]
/dʒəˈpæn.di/
a style of home decor that combines Japanese and Scandinavian elements

A mash-up of elegant Japanese minimalism and rustic Scandinavian simplicity, Japandi is a hybrid trend bringing together the best bits of two much-loved styles. Your home is your sanctuary and you take a less-is-more approach with uncluttered spaces, clean lines and a calm, subdued colour palette. At the same time, you want your home to feel relaxed and comfortable, lived-in and homely, so finding a balance between minimal and cosy is key.
[homesandgardens.com, 21 February 2020]

grandmillennial adjective
/ˌgrænd.mɪˈlen.i.əl/
relating to a style of dressing or decorating a home that combines old-fashioned items with modern ones

If you’re a wearer of a maxi floral dress and a chunky white trainer then you’re probably gonna love the grandmillennial style. The Millennial in us craves a simple and contemporary aesthetic, whereas the Granny in us can’t resist a bit of pattern and glamorous nostalgia from the art-deco era.
[glamourmagazine.co.uk, 23 February 2020]

tablescaping noun [U]
/ˈteɪ.bᵊl.skeɪ.pɪŋ/
the activity of setting a dining table in a very artistic, decorative way, usually for a special occasion

Put simply, tablescaping is the art of dressing your table for a dinner party or special occasion – in the same way you might put together an outfit for a night out. Starting with the tablecloth, you colour-coordinate and theme your way up to the napkins, plates, bowls, salt and pepper shakers and candles, finishing off with a vase of flowers or a bowl of fresh seasonal fruit.
[you.co.uk, 26 July 2020]

About new words

New words – 5 October 2020

sturti / E+ / Getty

physical literacy noun [U]
UK /ˌfɪz.ɪ.kᵊl.ˈlɪt.ᵊr.ə.si/ US /ˌfɪz.ɪ.kᵊl.ˈlɪt̬.ɚ.ə.si/
the ability to carry out basic physical activities, such as running, jumping, throwing and catching

Children should be taught “physical literacy” in the same way they learn to read and write if the gold-medal successes of athletes such as Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson are to translate into more people getting active, the head of the body tasked with increasing sporting uptake in England has said.
[The Guardian, 5 October 2019]

death diving noun [U]
/ˈdeθ.daɪ.vɪŋ/
a sport in which participants jump in a horizontal position from a diving board, only tucking their arms and legs in just before they hit the water

Arne Haugland, a Norwegian man who competes in “death diving” competitions, shared a video of himself taking a terrifying, headfirst leap into a hole in a partially frozen body of water in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago located between mainland Norway and the North Pole.
[www.intheknow.com, 7 May 2020]

chessboxing noun [U]
UK /ˈtʃes.bɒk.sɪŋ/ US /ˈtʃes.bɑːk.sɪŋ/
a sport that combines chess and boxing

The fusion of chess and boxing into the hybrid sport of “chessboxing” has provoked controversy as its supporters prepare to host the first pay-per-view event next weekend. Devotees of the “game of kings” have decried chessboxing as a “freak show” and a “hoax” that combines “bad chess and worse boxing”.
[www.telegraph.co.uk, 18 July 2020]

About new words

New words – 28 September 2020

PeopleImages / E+ / Getty

boreout noun [U]
/ˈbɔːr.aʊt/
extreme tiredness and depression caused by being bored at work over a long period of time

Unlike burnout, boreout can be caused by there being no work or too little of it (rather than being overloaded with it), which can have an adverse impact on an employee’s psychological well-being. Although there are different boredom thresholds, the onset of boreout is directly related to work tasks being too few and far between, off-putting, or meaningless.
[welcometothejungle.com, 4 April 2019]

workation noun [C]
UK /wɜː.ˈkeɪ.ʃᵊn/ US /wɝː.ˈkeɪ.ʃᵊn/
a holiday where you stay in a hotel or other accommodation and work from there

For many years I’ve been on “workation”, doing my job in hotels across the country. Covid-19 put a stop to all that and gave me time to reflect. The hospitality industry will need our help more than ever over the coming months if it is to survive. Given that I can now work from any location in the UK, I’ve decided to take mini-breaks during the off-season, and continue working as I go.
[Sunday Times, 23 August 2020]

adaptability quotient noun [C]
UK /əˌdæp.təˈbɪl.ə.ti.ˈkwəʊ.ʃᵊnt/ US /əˌdæp.təˈbɪl.ə.t̬i.ˈkwoʊ.ʃᵊnt/
the ability of someone or the company they work for to adapt to change and stay successful

If you want a competitive advantage right now (and admit it, who isn’t feeling insecure about work?), what you need is not a high IQ, or EQ, but AQ – “adaptability quotient”. How to improve adaptability is one of the most common questions business coaches are being asked. You can start, says the executive coach Dr Sally Ann Law, by “observing how others do things and being open-minded about their way being better than yours”.
[Sunday Times, 21 June 2020]

About new words