The word covid has united us this year – but has had a profoundly different effect on each of us. For some , it has made people more patient, more appreciative of friends of family and more thoughtful. For others it has been life shattering as they cope with isolation, food poverty and bereavement. 

So, I was intrigued  to read Ben Zimmers’ article in the Wall Street journal on his selection for his word of the year -COVID.  Zimmers is Chairman of The New Words Committee and has been for over a decade. His rationale of course is that this five letter word, which did not exist at the beginning of 2020, has cast a long shadow over our language and how it turned our world upside down.

Britains’s departure from the EU gave the world a variety of new terms including “brexiteer,” “remainers” and words such as backstops, no deal, and hard borders meant something more to each of us living through the protracted exit. 

But I think Ben Zimmer is right to choose as his winning word of the year: Covid, but for many different reasons. Covid and the pandemic has led to a explosion of new phrases and a language that has become commonplace in how we talk and understand the new world. This dialect didn’t exist pre Wuhan ( whoever outside of China ever heard of Wuhan before February 2020?). This new Covid vocabulary that has emerged over the past year reflects the upheaval that has become part of our everyday lives.

Phrases and language that meant something to us for decades now have a completely new meaning: 

Contact tracing now has nothing to do with art

Bubbles no longer have  to do just with bathtime. 

Zoom is no longer just a camera setting 

Masks are no longer just for Halloween 

Quarantine is  no longer just for dogs

Garden parties are no longer just for summer

Lockdown is not only for those in prison

Tiering now has nothing to do with cakes 

Super spreader has nothing to do with butter

Nightingale is more than a bird

PPE is now not just a degree from Oxford

A support group is no longer just for alcoholics 

The WHO is  no longer about the 1960s band 

The R rating is no longer just for movies

Corona is no longer just a beer

Flatten the curve is not about your waistline 

Social distancing is not just for the unpopular.

Self isolation is a now a new level of loneliness. 

To use protection is not just about contraception.

A year ago, we avoided  negative people. In 2020 we now stayed away from positive people.

The status hierarchy of work turned upside down as we redefined who key workers are and which essential  businesses they work for. As we fight to free ourselves from Covid, holding onto this expanded dignity of work is critical to our future and our recovery as a society. 

So together, let’s toast to 2021 and raise our quarantinis for a healthy and happy new year and the quick rollout of many successful Covid vaccines. 


  • Jill Shaw Ruddock CBE

    Chairman and Founder

    The Second Half Foundation

    Jill Shaw Ruddock is the author of The Second Half of Your Life (Ebury, 2011), a book about successful ageing using menopause as the hormonal springboard to get to the best years of a woman's life. It offers practical hands-on advice for post-menopausal women, covering many of the issues women face as they grow older: from finance, dating, divorce, exercise, going back to work, the libido, marriage, andropause and to how to look your best. The book also emphasises what she believes is the foundation for healthy ageing, her "Five A Day"; purpose, passion, exercise, nutrition and staying connected to family friends and community Ruddock is Chairman and Founder  of The Second Half of Life Foundation (Reg 1141988), a charity which seeks to address loneliness and isolation among the over 50s for any person from any background over the age of 50: from the underprivileged to ethnic minorities to those who are just isolated through the creation of community centre. The  Second Half Centre opened in October 2012 at the NHS St. Charles's Hospital, North Kensington. The centre brings to life the "Five a Day" for successful ageing as cited in her book, offering older adults the opportunity to socialise, learn new skills, and exercise for a small fee.[The Second Half Foundation is creating a self-sustaining template to reflect 21st century solutions to the problems facing our ageing population in the 21st century. In addition to The Second Half Centre now run by Open Age, which has over 4000 members and 80 hours of activities weekly, Ruddock has expanded in London, partnering with the Diocese of London creating four Second Half Clubs in churches on days not of worship: St Stephen, St Andrews, St Paul's and St Mary The Boltons.