We are proud to announce Wordsmyth Word of the Year 2020, selected by the votes of members of the Wordsmyth community.

Here are a selection of the comments from our users who voted for the word social distancing.

This is a common theme – what most people must do or do not want to do. And truly feel! How social distancing impacts our whole society and world is key to what is happening- causing many economic, health snd mental social  effects. All or most of the other terms were here before, have various meanings and will last after the pandemic. A missing term is pandemic –  plus the term is new in 2020. The others are not. 

I personally would have chosen the word “triggered” to represent 2020, but since that was not an option, I picked social-distancing. This word/term went from zero to worldwide household use this year. Not only does it apply physically, but here in the USA, after so many people let their unfiltered, true colors fly on social media regarding many of the other nominees on this list (Quarantine, patriotism, racism, climate change, as well as politics) many of us have had to figuratively and mentally socially-distance ourselves from more than a few acquaintances.

When I first heard “social distance” used, I thought it was a crazy, made-up, politically-correct way of normalizing the bureaucratic handling of COVID-19 and the life-altering restrictions and control that surprised us. Now, I use it regularly because these changes—mask-wearing and the six-feet rule—have indeed invaded my life, and it’s the best word I know to communicate the absurdity of this new normal.

It’s added a significantly new and odd importance to our lives. That’s why I’ve chosen this word . Maybe , it’ll be one of the most radical changing word that humanity has ever seen in its history so far.

Although several other words have taken on significance this year, they are generally familiar and could be or have been applied to several years. I did not choose “essential worker” or “contact tracing.” Both have meanings specific to 2020, but contact tracing, while not familiar to most people, existed before 2020. Essential workers has become a noteworthy category in 2020, but still seems fuzzy and context-specific. As a number of people have argued, what is “essential” work depends on who is using the term. By process of elimination, I chose “social distancing” as a term that, I believe, was coined for the pandemic (though maybe not), that has a very clearly defined meaning, and that represents a substantial burden and painful experience of 2020.

“Social distancing” describes a type of community behavior, now formally recognized, and recommended, by all governments seeking to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19. It applies to people of the world who appreciate, either by government education, or knowledge gained during life events, that keeping a minimum distance between people limits the transmission of viruses between them. As far as I know, this combination of English words had not been used before the year 2020, or before the start of the current pandemic. It describes a behavior, which to many people is instinctive during influenza and common cold outbreaks. Formal and widespread floor marking as a means of encouraging social distancing is, to my knowledge, a first in tangible signs to remind people of a newly named community practice.

“Social distancing” received the largest number of votes of the 10 words that were nominated as WOTY 2020 candidates. Here is a chart showing how they ranked, based on the votes of our community:

To recognize everyone who participated. we made a word cloud using all the comments we received, including those we voted for other words.

Thank you very much!

We’re looking forward with hope to the new year – 2021!