“Words. Words. Words.”

James T. Berger headshot

James T. Berger
Senior Marketing Writer

Published February 19, 2021

“Words. Words. Words.”
–William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2

The constantly evolving English language created 520 words in 2020, the Merriam-Webster dictionary reports. Here is the breakdown or new words and phrases as well as standard words that have acquired new meaning:

The Coronavirus has inspired a whole new vocabulary with words and phrases such as:

Self-isolate; physical distancing; contactless not involving contact; WFH work from home; PPE – personal protection equipment; forehead thermometer; intensivist – a physical who cares for intensive care patients; epidemic curve (viral representation on charts and graphs); immune surveillance (monitoring the immune system pertaining to Covid-19); community immunity and herd immunity – reduction in risk of becoming sick as a significant population becomes immune; long hauler – one who experiences long-term effects following recovery; pod or bubble – small groups of people who have close interaction; wet market — a market that sells perishable items such as fresh meat and possibly live animals slaughtered on site.

The English language created 520 words in 2020

The pandemic has also spawned new words relating to the marketplace and workforce:

Makerspace – a communal public workshop in which makers can work on small personal projects; co-working – relating to working in a building where multiple tenants make use of communal facilities; crowdfunding – obtaining funding from multiple sources especially from online community; gig worker – a person who works temporary jobs in the service sector as an independent contractor or free-lancer.

Following are some other interesting additions from Merriam-Webster:

Decarceration – release from prison; also reducing the numbers of people subject to imprisonment; prison industrial complex – the profit-driven relationship between the government and private companies that build, manage, supply and service prisons; sapiosexual – sexual or romantic attraction to highly intelligent people; silver fox – an attractive middle-age man with mostly gray or white hair; second gentleman – the husband or male partner of a female vice president.

The Oxford English Dictionary has some notable additions as well:  lob ball a term for an easy question, especially one intended to make the person to whom it is addressed seem knowledgeable or competent (otherwise known as a softball question); structural racism discrimination or unequal treatment on the basis of membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, arising from systems, structures, or expectations that have become established within society or an institution;  nuerofiversity – refers to the range of differences in brain function and personality traits among all humans and promotes the concept that atypical ways of thinking and behaving, such as those evidenced in conditions such as autistic spectrum disorders, dyslexia and ADHD, are just part of the normal range of human thought and behavior.

About The Author

James T. Berger headshot
James T. Berger, Senior Marketing Writer of The Wiglaf Journal, through his Northbrook-based firm, James T. Berger/Market Strategies, offers a broad range of marketing communications, research and strategic planning consulting services. In addition, he provides expert services to intellectual property attorneys in the area of trademark infringement litigation. An adjunct professor of marketing at Roosevelt University, he previously has taught at Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago and The Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan (BA), Northwestern University (MS) and the University of Chicago (MBA). Berger is an often-published free lance business writer who has developed more than 100 published articles in the last eight years. For more information, visit www.jamesberger.net or telephone him at (847) 328-9633.