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November 27, 2020 Friday 11:17:13 AM IST

Cambridge Dictionary names 'quarantine’ Word of the Year 2020

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‘Quarantine’ has defeated 'lockdown' and 'pandemic' to be crowned Word of the Year 2020 after data showed it to be one of the most highly searched for on the Cambridge Dictionary. Quarantine was the only word to rank in the top five for both search spikes (28,545) and overall views (more than 183,000 by early November), with the largest spike in searches seen the week of 18-24 March, when many countries around the world went into lockdown as a result of COVID-19.

The Cambridge Dictionary editors have also tracked how people are using quarantine, and have discovered a new meaning emerging: a general period of time in which people are not allowed to leave their homes or travel freely, so that they do not catch or spread a disease. Research shows the word is being used synonymously with lockdown, particularly in the United States, to refer to a situation in which people stay home to avoid catching the disease.

This new sense of quarantine has now been added to the Cambridge Dictionary, and marks a shift from the existing meanings that relate to containing a person or animal suspected of being contagious: a specific period of time in which a person or animal that has a disease, or may have one, must stay or be kept away from others in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

The most highly viewed blog post this year was Quarantine, carriers and face masks: the language of the coronavirus, which had almost 80,000 views in the first six weeks after it was posted on February 26, and now ranks as the ninth most viewed 'About Words' post in the nearly ten years that the blog has been live. The post covers a range of related terms, such as infectious, contagious, carriers, super-spreaders, and symptoms, as well as phrases such as contract a virus, a spike in cases, contain the spread, and develop a vaccine.

In a recent poll, 33% of respondents said quaranteam - combining quarantine and team, meaning a group of people who go into quarantine together - should be added to the dictionary. Other suggestions include the portmanteau words quaranteen, coronial and lockstalgia.

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