Why There Will Not Be an Oxford English Dictionary 'Word of the Year' to Sum Up 2020

Dictionary.com has revised 15,000 terms in what they call their biggest update ever.

Because this year, the news kept evolving, it was hard to pick one single word.

The year 2020 has been an anomaly for so many, including the smart folks behind the Oxford English Dictionary, as they couldn’t just pick one word for 2020’s coveted “Word of the Year” superlative.

The “Word of the Year” is one they pick that encapsulates the entire calendar. In the past, words like “Toxic” in 2018 and “Climate Emergency” last year took home the prize. This year, not so much.

“With everything that has happened throughout 2020, we concluded that this year could not be summarized by one single ‘Word of the Year,’” they tweeted.

“We cast our net wide to capture how English around the world expressed its own view, sometimes sharing the collective expressions for the phenomena endured globally this year, and at other times using regionally specific words and usages,” the staff at Oxford English Dictionary said in a statement.

Because this year, the news kept evolving, it was hard to pick one single word. “Bushfire” was the top word January as Australia suffered its worst fire season on record. The next month it was “acquittal,” when President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial ended.

Yet, in March, as the coronavirus crisis hit fever pitch, terms related to the pandemic like “COVID-19,” “lockdown,” “social distancing” and “reopening” all surged and remained until June, when “Black Lives Matter” took center stage.

Then, in August, “mail-in” and “Belarusian” were being popularized, as Trump waged a war of words against the post office and then there was the controversial re-election of the Belarusian president.

“Moonshot,” the name Great Britain gave its coronavirus testing program, was popularized, and then in October, China made news as they planned to go carbon neutral by 2060, leading to “net zero” to be a key word. On Oct. 1, President Trump and some members of the White House staff tested positive for COVID-19, which lead to “superspread” becoming popularized.