How COVID-19 has modified our language

2020 The year COVID-19 changed the English language as we knew it.

When you think of 2020, what comes to mind? For most people, this year has been highly defined by the pandemic of COVID-19.

In March of this year, the country went into lockdown leaving the streets empty. Bringing with it a time of uncertainty, anxiety and panic. The unknown virus of COVID-19 was spreading across the globe and our hospital beds were at maximum capacity.

The world around us seemed to stop moving; we were faced with no other alternative but to adapt our lifestyles and working patterns. Juggling virtual working and homeschooling whilst missing special time with our loved ones; it appeared we lost the ‘normal’ way of life as we knew it.

We became accustomed to a new way of life.


The pandemic created a ripple of changes and restrictions across every aspect of our daily lives resulting in changes that we now consider to be part of our conventional everyday. Take us back a year and ‘virtual working’ and ‘social distancing’ just weren’t considered the ‘norm’!

Strangely, with separation came integration.


Yet among these adjustments, there were moments of unity that brought the nation together; moments of happiness and hope.

These moments captured by the atmosphere in the chorus of clapping hands that echoed through our neighbourhoods, as a gesture of appreciation for our NHS heroes and key-workers. Also, the smiles imprinted on the faces of our children whilst following a trail of the bright and beautiful rainbows displayed proudly in our windows.

Further to these lifestyle changes, it became apparent we have subsequently reshaped our language. Owing to what 2020 delivered, we now use an abundance of COVID-19-influenced words within our day-to-day communications. A flowering of words that have a different meaning now to what they ever had before.

Our list of 2020 language adaptations


1. COVID-19 (COVID/ Coronavirus)
2. Furlough – JRS
3. Lockdown
4. Quarantine
5. Isolate/ self-isolate
6. Pandemic
7. Unprecedented
8. Virtual (Hug/ meeting/ party)
9. Hand sanitise/ Face Covering
10. ‘Bubbles’

Take a look at our PR lingo guide if you are interested in PR-specific language or to find out more about account manager Georgia Christley you can read our blog post Two minutes with: Georgia Christley. Be sure to keep up with the team at Carnsight by following us on Instagram.

If you enjoyed reading about the impact COVID-19 had on our country, you can find related articles below;

Clap for Carers: UK in ’emotional’ tribute to NHS and care workers, Coronavirus: Major cities empty as lockdown measures continue

Coroanavirus: Rainbow portraits thank the NHS