COVID, COVID, COVID, impeachment, COVID.
Just kidding. Sort of.
Yes, 2020 was the year in which Donald J. Trump was impeached by the US Senate House of Representatives. It was also the year in which he was soundly defeated at the polls by Joe Biden, although as of this writing his legal shenanigans and email grifting continue unabated, as I expect they will until Biden is sworn in on January 20, 2021.
But the impeachment took place in January and February, and in March everything changed thanks to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, which has influenced our behavior and our language in ways we couldn’t have anticipated in early 2020. My list this year reflects many of those new COVID-inspired terms, but it also makes room for fashion and politics. Like the American Dialect Society, I give preference to words (or “lexical items”—acronyms and phrases appear here, too) that were new or newly prominent, widely used, and relevant to events of 2020. I’m also interested in words that were linguistically productive: capable of generating creative coinages.
By the way, this is my twelfth consecutive year of posting words of the year. I’m kind of shocked myself.
In alphabetical order, then: