most used words of 2020

Lock-down, Social-distancing, Pandemic, Home-schooling… So many new words we got accustomed to in 2020! Some of these words have crossed over into 2021 with us, unfortunately, some of them are words we’ll prefer never to hear again! Hopefully, by the end of this year, the negative words would have left our vocabulary.

Despite the Coronavirus and all the new words that came with it, we still have some positive words that were used a lot last year so it’s not all gloomy in my 2020 most used words.

We all use these words so often now, but do we really know the meanings? Google and other search engines usually release their most searched words at the end of each year, here is my own version – words I heard people use alot in 2020 that have now crossed over to 2021.


This word came into my vocabulary in January last year. Like most people, I didn’t pay much attention to it until it basically took over our lives and our world. The body counts started going up and the world that we have always known changed significantly right before our eyes. This was no movie, this is the real deal!

So what does this dreadful word mean?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and COVID -19.

Covid -19

COVID-19 is an acute respiratory illness in humans caused by the coronavirus, which is capable of producing severe symptoms and death, especially in the elderly and unwell.

Its symptoms include cough, fever or chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, diarrhoea, headache, fatigue, nausea or vomiting and congestion or runny nose. COVID-19 can be severe, and some cases have caused death.

I’ll explain the difference between coronavirus and covid-19. Coronavirus is a virus that causes illnesses. Covid -19 is a dreadful illness caused by the coronavirus. This is another word we’ve all heard enough now, it just has to go away.


Most used words in 2020 that have crossed over to 2021

Contagion, World war Z, I am Legend, Zombie-land… Movies like that are all we knew about pandemics until Coronavirus happened! Shit, it’s a pandemic 😱.

So what does it really mean?

A pandemic is a disease outbreak that spreads across countries or continents. It affects more people and takes more lives than an epidemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic when it became clear that the illness was severe and that it was spreading quickly over a wide area.


This word is mostly used in medicine and means a medical treatment that will not cure an illness, but will reduce the pain.

Palliative also means something done to make a bad situation seem better, but does not solve the problem. This is the context in which it was used a lot last year in a lot of developing countries where governments and private companies gave out palliative packs. These packs contained essential goods like food and medicine and were handed to the less privileged in the society to make life a little easier for families who struggled as a result of the lock-down and other measures taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus.


Before 2020 I can bet some of us never encountered that word before! Almost a year later, it has become the new norm for most of us. So what does it mean?

Lockdown is a temporary condition imposed by governmental authorities in which people are required to stay in their homes and refrain from or limit activities outside the home involving public contact (such as dining out or attending large gatherings).

Before now, lock-downs were mostly used to confine prisoners to their cells for all or most of the day as a temporary security measure. It was also used as an emergency measure in security breaches. A good example is where people are temporarily prevented from entering or leaving a restricted area or building (such as a school) during a threat or danger.


This is another word made popular by Coronavirus. Isolation to many is simply the state of feeling alone and without friends or help. However, Isolation to curb the spread of a disease like Covid -19 is when someone who is infected with the virus and is contagious needs to stay home. This helps to prevent spread of the virus to other people.

A person should isolate when:

  • They have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • They have tested positive for the virus (with or without symptoms).

If you’re sick and live with others you isolate by restricting yourself to one room (sick room) for 10days.

Most used words in 2020 that have crossed over to 2021


Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms.

Quarantine and Isolation are both preventive measures and very similar in meaning.

Here’s the difference

  • you quarantine when you’ve been in close contact with a person with covid.
  • It is important to isolate if you are sick and think or know you have covid. You also isolate if you’ve tested positive for covid even if you don’t have symptoms.


Homeschooling is the education of school-aged children at home or a variety of places other than school. Yes, some people actually homeschool their children 😨!

The lockdown in most countries included school closures. This meant parents/guardians became more involved in their children’s learning. This is not actually homeschooling as defined above, Most children have their lessons on-line (virtual learning) but parents have to do more to support their children’s learning – especially parents with younger children.

Screen Time

Screen time is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. It is a sedentary activity, meaning you are being physically inactive while sitting down. Very little energy is used during screen time and it can cause eyestrain in most people.

Most families have always struggled with balancing screen-time, now home-schooling has added more screen-time making the situation even dicier. This word came up in so many conversations last year and it’s still in use. How do you balance screen-time for children now when school time is also screen-time? 😵 All so confusing right…


The way people threw this world around last year was tiring 😬. I almost had to scream “please speak English” lool, like algorithm is not an English word! Like most people, I just nodded or carried along like I knew what it meant. I finally checked the meaning;

‘an algorithm is a set of guidelines that describe how to perform a task’. Yes, that’s all! So why ‘ask me’ do they have to complicate things by using that word 😅. It’s actually a computer language used in coding – a sequence of instructions telling a computer what to do. Some people just like the sound of it so much they’ve decided to throw it into light conversations 🙄. Instead of algorithm you could use – technique, data or even method. 🤝


Another big word that was being thrown around last year! Everyone who wanted to sound intelligent had to toss this word into their speech 🤬. Anyway, do you know what it means? Me too, but I checked for us 😅

Trajectory is another word borrowed from science and means ‘ the path described by an object moving in air or space under the influence of such forces as thrust, wind resistance, and gravity.

The word is used most often in physics and engineering, but not always; we can also say, for example, that the trajectory of a whole life may be set in a person’s youth. Basically instead of using trajectory in a sentence, you can use any of these words – course, path, route, track or even direction. So the sentence above will be ‘the path of a whole life may be set in a person’s youth’. I just love simple English 😂.


I like this one 😊, maybe because I believe the narrative has to change in too many cases in life.

A narrative is simply something that is narrated. A story, an account of something. It could also be a way of presenting or understanding a situation or series of events that reflects and promotes a particular point of view or set of values.

If you don’t like how something is being presented or portrayed, you change the narrative by telling your own story.


Another good one, I’m sure you’ve probably heard it today 😂. I cannot take a stroll on the street of Instagram or Twitter without encountering this word. It is loved by motivational speakers and rightly so, we need to be intentional in the things we do.

Intentional simply means ‘done on purpose; deliberate’. It is consciously choosing to make the right decisions, take the right steps, choose the right options etc. It is doing everything with a clear purpose and focus. You could decide to be intentional in your parenting, weight loss efforts, relationships etc.

Social Distancing

Physical not social distancing

Social distancing is another word that came with Coronavirus. It is the action or practice of maintaining a specified physical distance from other people who are not from your household. , or of limiting access to and contact between people.

It’s one of the measures put in place in most countries to prevent the spread of Covid-19.


Hydroxychloroquine is a popular drug used in treating Malaria. Around May/June last year, news about hydroxychloroquine been a wonder drug to cure Covid – 19 hit the airwaves. Hydroxychloroquine quickly became a sought after drug, and in countries where drugs can be bought over the counter, it quickly became sold out. Soon after, news about the abuse of the drug was all over the internet 🤦🏽‍♀️.

Despite the disappointing trial results and controversies about the effectiveness of the drug, it still remains popular and is still used by people with Covid – 19 symptoms.


Another popular word thanks to the Corona virus. The healthcare professionals risking their lives in the frontline and fighting the virus are at a greater risk of transmission than the general population owing to their direct contact with the patients. They need to wear protective clothing to mitigate infection risk.

PPE means Personal protective equipment (PPE). The frontline workers need it for covering the exposed body parts. Workers are exposed to many types of hazards that can be prevented or minimized by using PPE properly.

That’s all folks! If you think there’s a word that should be on the list, please drop it in the comment section.

Aunty Lulu.


3 thoughts on “Most used words in 2020 that have crossed over to 2021

  1. You have kept me busy reading and at the same time laughing all on my own.Since we are not allowed to go out, socialize and interact . They say we’re vulnerable .It’s now a crime to be old. Thank you , nice write up .

  2. Good job!
    A few other words that were / have been buzzing: asynchronous learning, pivot, new normal, agile, Herd ” Immunity…good thing buzz words such as ” flatten the curve” and “V- Shaped economic recovery “are fizzling away.

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