In its original hyphenated avatar, the word meant a piece of wood used to nail pieces of a raft together.
In the 1970s, it is believed that the prison systems of some US states gave it a meaning close to its current one — restricting inmates to their cells, especially in the wake of or to prevent violence.
On Sunday, it was named the word of the year 2020 by Collins English Dictionary.
The word? Lockdown.
The word, which, in its current context means measures implemented by governments around the world to restrict movement of people to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus disease, Covid-19, was chosen for its “unifying experience for billions” and for being one that “sums up the year” for most people.
The dictionary defines lockdown as “the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces”.
“Our lexicographers chose lockdown as Word of the Year because it is a unifying experience for billions of people across the world, who have had, collectively, to play their part in combating the spread of COVID-19,” Collins said.
“Lockdown has affected the way we work, study, shop, and socialise. With many countries entering a second lockdown, it is not a word of the year to celebrate but it is, perhaps, one that sums up the year for most of the world,” she said. The dictionary said it registered over a quarter of a million usages of the word during 2020, against only 4,000 the previous year.
Several other words related to the pandemic are included in Collins’s list of the top 10 words of the year: “furlough” — the practice of temporarily laying off employees — and “self-isolate”. The word “coronavirus” features in the list too, with an extraordinary 35,000-fold increase in use year-on-year. But social impacts – the changes to behaviour and the human way of life – dominate the list for the year. “The restrictions placed on how we move about and interact with one another arguably had the most impact,” Collins notes.
Interestingly, the dictionary points out that 2020 was not all about the pandemic. “Megxit”, or Prince Harry and actor Meghan Meghan’s decision to stand down as members of the UK royal family, was among the top words of the year. Anti-racism movement Black Lives Matter was one of the other key words, as was “mukbang” , the Korean word that refers to a video or webcast in which the host noisily eats a large quantity of food for the entertainment of viewers.
There’s no explaining tastes.
(With inputs from PTI)