Word of the Year 2020

The Oxford Languages 2020 Word of the Year campaign looks a little different to previous years. The English language, like all of us, has had to adapt rapidly and repeatedly this year. Our team of expert lexicographers have captured and analysed this lexical data every step of the way. As our Word of the Year process started and this data was opened up, it quickly became apparent that 2020 is not a year that could neatly be accommodated in one single “word of the year”, so we have decided to report more expansively on the phenomenal breadth of language change and development over the year in our Words of an Unprecedented Year report.

What’s in the report?


We examine, in detail, the themes that were a focus for our language monitoring this year, including Covid-19 and all its related vocabulary, political and economic volatility, social activism, the environment, and the rapid uptake of new technologies and behaviours to support remote working and living. 

We cast our net wide to capture how English around the world expressed its own view, sometimes sharing the collective expressions for the phenomena endured globally this year, and at other times using regionally specific words and usages.

Download the report to explore the evidence-based approach Oxford Languages has taken to tracking and analyzing the unfolding story.


Webinar: Behind the scenes of Word of the Year 2020


Take a look behind the scenes of our Word of the Year campaign and the great work our lexicographers do. Featuring:

  • Casper Grathwohl – Oxford Languages President
  • Fiona McPherson – OED Editor
  • Kate Wild – Executive Editor – Strategic Lexical Projects
  • Katherine Martin – Head of Product for Oxford Languages

This session presents an overview of our corpus analysis-based approach to monitoring language, and the particular challenges of keeping track of language developments in 2020.


Download the presentation slides here.