'Unmute' named one of Oxford Dictionary's words of the year

Stop doomscrolling through Blursday and take a Workation


Oxford Languages, publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary, has made "unmute" one of its words of the year for 2020.

The publisher chose not to name a single word of the year for 2020, preferring to instead note that 2020 has seen so much happen, so quickly, that considering the many changes in language use during the year is a better approach than picking just one word.

The resulting Words of an Unprecedented Year report therefore considers many words that appeared in wide usage across the year. Readers who can remember January 2020 will not be surprised that the words "bushfire" and "impeachment" bounced in that month before "acquittal" started to do well in February.

By March "coronavirus" was on the march and related terms have become common ever since.

In the same month use of the words "remote" and "remotely" exploded and have been used 300 per cent more than last year.

Use of "unmute" has risen 500 per cent.

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In a section of the report dedicated to tech-related talk, the lexicographers also detected the rise of "Zoombombing", "Zoom-ready", and "Zoom-friendly". The latter two couplets were used to describe dressing for video meetings with smart clothes on top and any old tat down below.

That behaviour also saw the term "waist-up" become common, along with the related "waist-up dressing", "waist-up fashion" and even "waist-up outfits".

Another word that's seen a surge is "workation" as those still in jobs try to get a change of scenery even as they keep toiling. The lexicographers suggest a workation is a good way to combat the effect of "Blursday", a new word for 2020 also caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report's title comes from a huge spike in use of the word "unprecedented", while terms including "circuit-breaker", "furlough", "black lives matter" and "learning modality" have also seen increases in usage.

"Doomscrolling" – a noun describing "the action of compulsively scrolling through social media or news feeds which relate bad news" – was also mentioned as a 2020 word of note. ®


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