“Covid-19”, “Work at Home,” and “WHO”: Top Word, Phrase, and Name of the Year 2020 for Worldwide English

The Global Language Monitor Announces that “Covid-19” is the Top Word, “Work at Home” the Top Phrase and “WHO” the Top Name of 2020 for the English Language Worldwide

The Global Language Monitor’s twenty-first consecutive global survey since the turn of the 21st century

Contact: Paul JJ Payack, +1.737.215.7750 or Email — Info@languagemonitor.com or PJJP@post.Harvard.edu

AUSTIN, Texas, January 3, 2021 — The Global Language Monitor (GLM), the data research company, announced that ‘Covid-19’ is the top word, “Work at Home” the top phrase and “WHO” the top name of 2020 for the English Language Worldwide.

The Top Ten Words of 2020 are Work at Home, WHO, Covid-19, Covid, MAGA, Coronavirus, Zoom, New Normal, The Virus and Trade War.  These are followed by Black Lives Matter, Face mask, Corona, Progress, Truth, The Pandemic, Fake News, Sustainability, Donald Trump, Identity Politics, Climate Change, Essential Workers, Lockdown, Joe Biden, and Social Distancing.  For details, see below.

Global Language Monitor (GLM) is the premier data research and media analytics company that documents, analyzes, and tracks trends in language usage worldwide.

Recently, the European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences has characterized the Global Language Monitor Word of the Year Project as ‘objectively providing’ a ‘picture of the world that helps one understand significant trends in the states of minds around the world … [through the detection of] the small changes in language that often presage titanic shifts in the way humans communicate”.

[Quote from Paul JJ Payack, president and chief work analyst for the Global Language Monitor.  Payack is the founding president of both yourDictionary,com and the Global Language Monitor.]

“This Year of the Pandemic has provided a reset to most human activities, and the Word of the Year endeavor has not been immune to its influence and power.  The key question is how do you measure the words to describe this global plague against all the others?  Our answer is to simply record their impact, like any other, — 2020 was already a year of global upheaval.  Indeed, the top pandemic-related words have scored the highest Narrative Tracker Values ever recorded since the very first days of this not-so-young century.”

For the year 2020, GLM took a snapshot of the global language picture some ninety days after the advent of the first national lockdowns, when governments began to recognize the severity of the oncoming pandemic.  This current analysis not only details the top 50 words, phrases, and names but also shows the changes in the word rankings since those first lockdowns.

Biggest Movers Since Beginning of Pandemic                    

Gainers                                                Percent Increase                                                                             

  1. WHO, up 31 %
  2. Work-at-Home, up 56 %          
  3. MAGA. up 91 %
  4. New Normal, up 47 %
  5. The Virus. up94 %                          

The Top Words of the Year 2020 No, 1-25, along with definitions and past and current rankings, follows.

Top Words of 2020 for Worldwide English
Final Word Comment Midyear Change
1 Work at Home The result of social distancing guidelines where employees must stay separated. 29 Up 28
2 WHO WHO – The World Health Organization, the United Nations as the agency overseeing international public health. 35 Up 33
3 Covid-19     The official name of the disease caused by SARS CoV-2; named in WHO’s Int’l Classification of Diseases (ICD).    
4 Covid The shorthand for Covid-19. 1 -3
5 MAGA Make America Great Again:  2016 Campaign slogan of President Trump. 38 Up 33
6 Coronavirus Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma:  the four main groupings of coronaviruses.    Alpha, \ 3 -3
7 Zoom Group meetings held over video conferencing channels. 15 Up 8
8 New Normal Reality of the pandemic-ravaged world. 37 Up 29
9 The Virus Shorthand for Covid-19. 28 Up 19
10 Trade War The economic conflict between China and the US employing tariffs. 9 -1
11 Black Lives Matter A movement protesting police brutality against African Americans.  32 Up 21
12 Face mask Face covering that helps halt the spread of Covid-19 to varying degrees depending on fabric and number of layers. 5 -7
13 Corona From the Latin for ‘crown’.  Compare the Sun’s corona during a total eclipse. 4 -9
14 Progress The concept that Humankind is on the inexorable course toward achieving greater economic and personal freedom. 6 -8
15 Truth Being congruent with reality; real, genuine, conformable with the highest standard or quality. 7 -8
16 The Pandemic The current global pandemic precipitated by SARS-CoV-2. 27 Up 11
17 Fake News Packaged news, planted sources, one-sided exposes, party lines, and official narratives are new phenomena only to those with no sense of history. 38 Up 21
18 Sustainability The ability to create an environment that supplies certain needs without compromising future production. 10 -8
19 Donald Trump Donald J. Trump, the 46th, and current, president of the United States. 18 -1
20 Identity Politics Politics based on individual characteristics, such as skin color or ethnic background, or gender. 13 -7
21 Climate Change Climate change has ranked in the Top Ten for the last dozen years or so. 24 Up 3
22 Essential Workers   Workers whose jobs are important to the smooth running of a political entity, putting themselves at a higher risk of infection. 43 Up 21
23 Lockdown Restricting movement outside homes for locales or geographic districts. 12 -11
24 Joe Biden President-elect of the United States after defeating President Trump. 34 Up 10
25 Social Distancing Distance individuals should keep from each other to lessen risk of virus transmission; a minimum of two meters. 8 -17


Read More:  GLM’s Top Words of the Year Record the History of the 21st Century, Thus Far, click here.

Read More:  Top Words of the First Fifteen Year of the 21st Century — and what they portend

Read More:  A Brief Retrospective on the Nature of Truth and Why It Confuses Us So

Read More:  BBC’s Portrait of a Decade 2000-2009


Top Words Nos. 26-50 of 2020 for Worldwide English Follow.
Researched, Designed, & Published by The Global Language Monitor 
Final Word  Comment Midyear Change
26 Wet Market Markets for a variety of live, often exotic, highly sought after, sometimes wild, animals in China. 48 Up 22
27 Symptoms Physical conditions that may signify the presence of a virus or illness. 19 -8
28 Progressives The word ‘liberal’ outlived its usefulness as the description of one’s political leanings 14 -14
29 Migrants People moving from one nation, region, or geography to another. 17 -12
30 Quarantine Restricting physical movements to one’s home or institution, often separated from all others. 16 -14
31 Outbreak The seemingly sudden appearance of a disease in a community or  geographic location. 20 -11
32 Shelter-in-place Remain inside your current environment until the crisis has passed. 39 Up 7
33 George Floyd George Floyd, a black American, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck for eight minutes.  His death sparked global protests. 31 -2
34 Conservatives Political philosophy that favors saving the best from the past while moving toward the future. 22 -12
35 Unemployment Highest unemployment numbers the US has seen since the Great Recession — and possibly the Depression. 23 -12
36 Hand Sanitizer Washing one’s hands with an anti-bacterial soap for thirty seconds is strong barrier against Covid. 25 -11
37 Stimulus Massive $3 trillion+ funding effort by the US to help keep families (and the economy) afloat. 30 -7
38 CDC The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. 21 -17
38 White Privilege Supposed advantages carried by Whites by virtue of their ethnic heritage. 26 -12
39 Woke The state of suddenly becoming aware of social injustices in the society. 33 -6
40 Self Isolate To confine oneself in a quarantine-like state for a suggested period of time, usually two weeks. 41 Up 1
41 Disinfectant A chemical agent that kills bacteria. 36 -5
42 Kamala Harris Vice President-elect of the United States. NR NR
43 Wuhan City in Central China, the supposed epicenter of the  CoronaVirus-19 outbreak.   47 Up 4
44 Mike Pence Sitting  Vice President of the United States. 44 0
45 Mitch McConnell Current Majority leader of the US Senate. NR NR
46 Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the US House of Representatives 40 -6
47 Dr. Anthony Fauci Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; key in Covid-19 policy. 49 Up 2
48 Flatten the Curve The movement to change the political balance of the Supreme Court of the United States by adding members with a certain political philosophy. 11 -47
49 Amy Coney Barrett New Associate Justice of the US Supreme court, replacing Ruth Bader Ginsberg, NR NR
50 Antifa A loosely affiliated group of far-left, anti-fascism activists, known as “antifa” in the United States.  NR NR
NR Super spreader Persons or events that carry enhanced disease spreading  capability. 46 NR
NR Impeach Trump The effort to remove a duly-elected or appointed official from office before their term has expired. 44 NR
NR Dr Deborah Birx Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force. 50 NR
Researched, Designed, and Published by The Global Language Monitor

Typically, the Global Language Monitor ranks words, phrases, and names on three separate lists, and the lists are limited to 20 items. For this effort, GLM has combined the lists and extended the word count to 50 items. To view the entire list, go to www.LanguageMonitor.com.

Global Language Monitor began recording the Top Words of the Year in 2000 to document the history of the 21st Century through the English language, the world’s first truly global language. The words are culled throughout the English-speaking world, which as of January 2018 ranks more than 3.12 billion speakers. Global Language Monitor employs its NarrativeTracker technologies for global internet and social media analysis.

NarrativeTracker is based on global discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture about any topic, at any point in time. NarrativeTracker analyzes the internet, blogosphere, and the top 300,000 print and electronic global media as well as new social media sources as they emerge.

In addition, the Global Language Monitor has also tracked the Top Words, Phrases and Names of the 21st Century.

More information about these and the company can be found at Languagemonitor.com.

About Global Language Monitor

Based in Austin, Texas, the Global Language Monitor collectively documents, analyzes and tracks trends in language usage worldwide, with a particular emphasis upon the English language. The company is known for its Word of the Year, the Top Global Fashion Capitals, political analysis, college and university rankings, high-tech buzzwords, Olympic branding, and media analytics. For more information, visit Languagemonitor.com.

Media Contact:  Paul JJ Payack, +1.737.215.7750; pauljjpayack@gmail.com

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