Word of the Year for 2020
05 stycznia 2021

What Polish word has attracted a great deal of interest over the last 12 months? Predictably, a COVID-19 pandemic vocabulary has dominated the year 2020. “Coronavirus” has been named the 2020 Word of the Year in Poland by both a panel of linguists and those who voted online.

This year saw the 10th edition of “Słowo Roku” (the Word of the Year), organised annually since 2011 by the University of Warsaw Institute of Polish Language and the Polish Language Foundation. Like in previous years, everyone could either choose a word or expression from the list published on the website sloworoku.uw.edu.pl or submit their proposals. The candidates for the Word of the Year could be nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc.

The results of the Word of the Year vote were announced a live stream on 5th January. This year, Internet users also had the opportunity to vote for the Word of the Decade.

Word of the Year for 2020

Among this year proposals were, e.g. “pandemia” (pandemic), “strefa” (zone), “wybory” (elections), “kwarantanna” (quarantine), “strajk” (strike), and “zdalny” (remote). “Koronawirus” (coronavirus) has been selected as 2020’s Word of the Year by the linguists and those who voted online. The most popular expression of the last ten years was “pięćset plus” (500+; Poland’s programme to support families and boost birth-rates; Under the programme parents can receive a tax-free benefit of PLN 500 per month for each child until they reach the age of 18).

Poll results

The word “koronawirus”, which took first place in an online poll, received 1,753 votes (9.8% of all votes). It was followed by “kobieta” (woman) gathering 1,516 votes (8.4%). The third place was secured by the word “apostazja” (apostasy), used most often by Polish dailies, that gathered 1454 votes (8.1%). In the top ten were also: “lockdown”, “Covid-19”, “pandemia”, “aborcja” (abortion), “strajk”, “kwarantanna” and “remote”.

The organisers did not take into account those words that were not in line with the regulations, i.e. surnames, first names, nicknames, local, party and organisational names, titles of books and films, and vulgar words reflecting hate speech.

Experts’ choice

The expert panel also chose “koronawirus” as their word of the year, followed by “kobiety” (women) and “pandemia” in third place. Other words picked by the linguists: “kwarantanna”, “LGBT”, “lockdown”, “medyk” (medic), “miękiszon”, “szczepionka” (vaccine), and “zdalny”.

The panel comprises Prof. Jerzy Bartmiński (Maria Curie Sklodowska University in Lublin), Prof. Jerzy Bralczyk (UW), Prof. Katarzyna Kłosińska (UW), Prof. Ewa Kołodziejek (the University of Szczecin), Prof. Marek Łaziński (UW), Prof. Andrzej Markowski (UW), Prof. Jan Miodek (the University of Wrocław), Prof. Renata Przybylska (the Jagiellonian University, Cracow) and Prof. Halina Zgółkowa (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań).

Word of the decade  

This year, internet users chose the essential words of the last decade (2011-2020). The winner “pięćset plus” (the word of the year 2016). The abbreviation “LGBT” (the word of the year 2019) was in second place with 369 votes (10.7%). The third place was taken by “konstytucja” (constitution), the word of the year 2018 (366 votes, 10.6%). Other terms on the 10-strong list included “klimat” (climate), “dobra zmiana” (good change), “gender”, “feminatyw” (feminative), “protest” (protest), “niepodległość” (independence), “apostazja”.

Various dictionaries and language institutes have begun rolling out their Word of the Year lists, and no surprise, the vocabulary was related to COVID-19.

Words of the year 2020 in other countries:

  • United Kingdom: “lockdown” (Collins Dictionary),
  • USA: “Covid” (American Dialect Society), “pandemic” (Merriam Webster),
  • Germany: “Corona-Pandemie”,
  • Switzerland (German-speaking): “Systemrelevant” (systemically relevant),
  • Switzerland (French-speaking): “Coronagraben” (corona divide),
  • Austria: “Babyelefant” (baby elephant).


Source: www.en.uw.edu.pl