'Quarantine' is Cambridge Dictionary Word of the Year

Research shows "quarantine" is being used synonymously with "lockdown" to refer to a situation in which people stay home to avoid catching the disease. PHOTO: AFP

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - "Quarantine" has been named the 2020 Word of the Year by Cambridge Dictionary.

Cambridge Dictionary said its data shows it was one of the most highly searched words on its website this year.

Cambridge Dictionary publishing manager Wendalyn Nichols said users have been searching for words related to the social and economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Quarantine" was closely followed by "lockdown" and "pandemic" on the shortlist for Word of the Year, she said in a statement on Tuesday (Nov 24).

"'Neither 'coronavirus' nor 'Covid-19' appeared among the words that Cambridge Dictionary users mostly searched for this year.

"We believe this indicates that people have been fairly confident about what the virus is," she added.

Earlier this month, Collins Dictionary said "lockdown" was its Word of The Year in 2020, following a dramatic increase in usage during the spread of Covid-19.

Lexicographers said they picked the word because it had become synonymous with the experience of populations across the world as governments look to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Cambridge Dictionary said "quarantine" was the only word to rank in the top five for both search spikes and overall views, numbering more than 183,000 by early November.

The largest spike in searches totalling 28,545 was seen in the week of March 18-24, when many countries around the world went into lockdown as a result of Covid-19, said the publisher.

"The Cambridge Dictionary editors have also tracked how people are using 'quarantine', and have discovered a new meaning emerging: a general period of time in which people are not allowed to leave their homes or travel freely, so that they do not catch or spread a disease," it added.

The publisher, which is part of the University of Cambridge and publishes the English dictionary, said research shows the word is being used synonymously with "lockdown", particularly in the United States, to refer to a situation in which people stay home to avoid catching the disease.

The Cambridge Dictionary editors regularly monitor a wide range of sources for new words and meanings that are added monthly to the online dictionary.

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