From lockdown to love: the words we are looking up

Quarantine has emerged as the word that dictionary users are searching for most frequently during the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It accounted for about 1% of all searches on the website, and more than twice as many as the next most frequent search word, which turns out to be COVID-19. The accompanying video giving the pronunciation of quarantine was also comfortably the most viewed video on the website, being watched about ten times more frequently than the video for any other word.

This result is perhaps a reminder that people don’t always type in a word because they want to know what it means. The popularity of quarantine on the site may well be due to people checking its spelling and pronunciation, which are not as straightforward as many other key words associated with the current situation.

A list of the words that dictionary users have looked at frequently in March and April casts a fascinating spotlight on what people are thinking about in these times. Other popular searches include words directly related to the pandemic such as sanitizer, lockdown, pandemic, isolation, and curfew. Meanwhile, the problems of attempting to cope with life in isolation emerge with terms such as furlough, skeleton staff, surreal, enormity, challenge, and non-essential also featuring among the top 100 searches.

Yet the list also includes some words that have no apparent connection with the current pandemic: everyday items such as kid, saw, and syllable all feature among the top searches. And even at a time when people are concerned with an unprecedented threat to our health, our economy, and our social structures, there is still room for love, which makes it into the list at number 16.

Other Articles

Your essential guide to World Cup vocabulary

The weather outside is frightful, but for football fans the most delightful time of the year is upon us – admittedly a few months later than usual – as the 2022 World Cup kicks off in Qatar this November. First played in 1930, the World Cup is an international association… Read More

Pop Goes the Weasel: the magical language of nursery rhymes

When we are ickle, words can cast magic spells. Think Rain, rain, go away.Come again another day. And when we are small, each new word unlocks a new world of experience. “What’s a weasel, Dad?” When we are tiny, nursery rhymes do both. *** And they… Read More

Soggy bottoms & baps: the proven glossary of The Great British Bake Off

With over 4 million viewers weekly, The Great British Bake Off (GBBO) is a great British institution, famous for baked Alaska controversies and the Paul Hollywood handshake. It also has its fair share of risqué innuendos, giving us a delightful range of soggy bottoms, baps and spotted dicks to keep… Read More