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Word of the Year 2021

Can you sum up 2021 in a single word?

What would it be?

It was another year filled with pandemic-related words and phrases. There was more talk of circuit breakers, lateral flows and lockdowns! I’m sure lots of us are hoping to hear less of these in 2022.

But what were the English words of the year 2021?

Some of them actually have little to do with Covid…

Collins Dictionary made ‘NFT’ (non-fungible token) word of the year for 2021. It was chosen after use of the term went up by 11,000% in the year. Wow!

Apparently, an NFT is like a digital certificate that shows who has ownership of a video or meme that’s gone viral, for example. I can’t say that was in my vocabulary last year!

Meanwhile,’s word of the year went to ‘allyship’. According to the website, the word is defined as “the status or role of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of a marginalized or politicized group in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view and under its leadership”.

Oxford English Dictionary did crown a pandemic-related word as its 2021 champion though. The title went to ‘vax’, which is a shortened version of ‘vaccine’.

The word has, unsurprisingly, gone up in its usage this year! And it’s used in other words and phrases too, like ‘anti-vaxxer’, ‘fully vaxxed’, etc.

Other contenders for the English word of the year 2021 included:

  • ‘pingdemic’ – remember the summer when everyone was getting ‘pinged’ after coming into contact with someone who had Covid?!
  • ‘cheugy’ – a slang word that means something is no longer seen as cool. If you know how to pronounce that one, please let me know!
  • ‘climate anxiety’ – a phrase describing the fear we feel about the impending doom facing the planet due to climate change.

In the list of most frequently mispronounced words of 2021, there was ‘Omicron’ (despite us hearing about it non-stop through December), ‘Eilish’ (the surname of singer Billie Eilish), ‘Glasgow’ (apparently mispronounced by both Joe Biden and Barack Obama during the climate conference that was held in the city) and ‘cheugy’ (still not sure about this one!).

But what about other languages?

Well, there definitely seems to be more of a Covid-related theme going on.

Over in the Netherlands, ‘prikspijt’ was voted word of the year.

The Dutch word means regret over getting a vaccine.

A couple of the other contenders were also Covid-related, for example ‘wappiegeluid’, which is used as an insult to describe Covid conspiracy theorists. It appears this translates as ‘wappie sound’, ‘wappie’ being a slang Dutch word used to describe someone who doesn’t know much about a particular subject!

There was also ‘intimiteitsvacuüm’ or ‘intimacy vacuum’, which is pretty self-explanatory!

Another contender was ‘finfluencer’, which is used to describe financial advisors working on social media.

And in Germany, ‘Wellenbrecher’ was voted word of the year for 2021 by the German Language Association.

It literally translates as ‘wave breaker’ and usually describes protecting the coast but has been used recently when talking about steps taken to protect people from Covid.

Meanwhile, the German youth word of the year was ‘cringe’!

And a nice one to end on – the Polish youth word of 2021 was the not very well-known ‘Śpiulkolot’. Apparently, this loosely translates as ‘place to sleep’ and can be used when referring to animals cutely taking a nap, as seen in many memes – aw!

What was your most used word of 2021?

Which word would you choose to sum up the year?

Let’s hear some good ones in the comments!



Isabel Tawton

Isabel Tawton

I'm native English and studied German and Linguistics at the University of York. I also have a Masters in Translation from the University of Manchester. Before I came to Tongue Tied, I worked as a language assistant in Germany and in German-speaking customer service here in the UK. I'm very interested in languages and the German culture, and I really enjoy travelling!
Ich bin gebürtige Engländerin und habe Deutsch und Linguistik an der University of York studiert. Ich habeaucheinenMasterabschluss in Übersetzung von der University of Manchester. Bevor ichzu Tongue Tied kam, habeichals Sprachassistentin in Deutschland und als Kundenberaterineinerbritischen Firmafür den deutschsprachigen Marktgearbeitet. Ich interessieremichfür Sprachen und die deutsche Kulturund ichreisesehrgern!

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