Each year new words enter the English language. Some are added to dictionaries like The Oxford English Dictionary. Others are old words that are given new meanings. These new words show the evolution of language and the issues affecting the world today. And the most popular words of 2019 are no exception!

They tell a story of a new generation of future-minded individuals and reflect current trends in the environment, politics and lifestyle. Are you a freegan? Do you suffer from nomophobia? What’s a carbon sink?

You can find out what these words mean in our list of 15 trendy new words for 2020!


The Environment


1. carbon sink (n)

Definition: A forest, ocean, or another natural environment’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This is definitely not something you find in the bathroom. A carbon sink is something natural that absorbs more carbon than it releases as carbon dioxide. Oceans, soil and plants are the biggest carbon sinks.


2. freegan (n)

Definition: A person who only eats free food that has been (or would normally be) thrown away.

You know what a vegan is. Well, a freegan is a portmanteau of free and vegan. It is based on the idea that there’s too much food waste in the world which could be consumed for free. Often a freegan will find their food in a supermarket dumpster or an urban garden without paying a penny.

Freegan and freeganism were added into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015. But expect the concept to grow in 2020.


3. plastic footprint (n)

Definition: The amount of plastic that someone uses and then throws away in relation to the damage to the environment it causes.

You’ve been told lots of times to reduce your carbon footprint. Now it’s time to turn your attention to plastic. One way to reduce your plastic footprint is to stop using plastic straws and invest in a reusable water bottle.


4. climate emergency (n)

Definition: An urgent issue relating to the environment and climate which needs to be solved.

You might be used to hearing about “climate change” – a phrase that’s been used for many years. The word “change”, however, sounds too soft to describe the current climate situation.

People wanted to use a new term to explain the urgency of global warming. That’s where the addition of “emergency” comes in.

Thanks to The Guardian, Extinction Rebellion, and Greta Thunberg “climate emergency” has become a popular term. In fact, ‘Climate emergency’ was 100 times more common in 2019 than the year before. It’s no surprise the Oxford English Dictionary chose it as their Word of the Year.

Word of the year 2020 - Oxford Dictionary | 15 New English Words you Need for 2020 | Oxford House Barcelona



5. bottle episode (n)

Definition: An episode of a television series that is confined to one setting and isn’t expensive to produce.

TV producers make Bottle episodes to save the budget for more expensive locations. Think of ‘Fly’ in Breaking Bad or ‘The One Where No One’s Ready’ in Friends, which were both cheaply made and set in one place.

Fun fact. In Friends, it worked so well, they included a bottle episode in every season!


6. stan (adj)

Definition: An extremely excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan (stalker-fan).

Did you know everything about Game of Thrones before everyone else? Do you have an obsession with Channing Tatum? Well, congratulations, you might just be a stan – a combination of the two words “stalker” and “fan”.


Science & Tech


7. nomophobia (n)

Definition: Fear or worry at the idea of being without your phone or unable to use it.

You know that nervy anxious feeling you get when you can’t find your phone? It turns out we’re all addicts, and there’s a name for it. We might be suffering from nomophobia.

Quick, find your phone and Google it!


8. screen time (n)

Definition: The amount of time someone spends looking at an electronic device with a screen.

Do you get annoying notifications on your phone about your screen time?

This is an old word with a new meaning. It used to refer to the amount of airtime an actor or a product received on TV, now it’s our ability to zone out whilst looking at our phones.


Gender Politics


9. child-free (adj)

Definition: Used to refer to people who choose not to have children.

The original word, childless, was criticised for sounding too negative because “less” suggests there is something missing. So for those that make the decision not to have children, they may feel more empowered with the term ‘child-free’.


10. peoplekind (n)

Definition: A gender-neutral alternative to ‘mankind’.

Justin Trudeau famously encountered problems with his use of the word ‘peoplekind’. But we’re not ready to discard it yet. We expect this word to be added to the dictionaries in 2020!


11. they (n)

Definition: Used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is not fixed.

Last year we included the word ‘gender-fluid’ on our list. Here’s another that reflects people’s changing attitudes to gender stereotypes.

The pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’ are used for a person whose gender identity is non-binary and was added as a definition in September 2019. It was also Merriam Webster’s Word of The Year 2019!




12. bluebird day (n)

Definition: A day marked by cloudless blue skies.

While skiers and snowboards may have heard this word before, it’s only just been added to the dictionary. In a world where everything is Instagrammable, we have come to expect photos of clear sunny skies without a cloud in sight.

Ahhh, in the cold months of January we live for the bluebird days!


13. buzzy (adj)

Definition: Something that generates excitement and gets people talking.

Whether it’s Peaky Blinders Season 5 or a new Japanese eggs benedict cafe – if you and your friends are talking about it, it’s definitely buzzy.

Now we mention it, ‘eggs Benedict’ officially became a dictionary entry last year too! Now, that’s buzzy.


14. peak (n)

Definition: Being at the height of popularity or attention.

Mountains have peaks but this is a different meaning of the word. Used before the name of a person, product or cultural trend it tells us when something is at its best. For example – The Lemonade album was peak Beyonce.


15. sober-curious (adj)

Definition: Experimenting with a period of not drinking alcohol.

There was a time when being sober had a stigma. We now welcome a generation who are less fixated on drinking. It’s not in the dictionary yet, but expect people to be more curious about going alcohol-free.

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If you enjoyed this post, check out our list of 10 words you need for 2018.

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Future-minded (adj):: being able to think about and be conscious of the future.

Trendy (adj): something or someone fashionable, modern and cool.

Global warming (n): a gradual increase in the earth’s temperature.

Portmanteau (n): a word made by combining two other words.

Dumpster (n): a large rubbish container.

Budget (n): an estimation of spending.

To zone out (v): to lose concentration.

Stereotypes (n): a common idea of a person or thing (often oversimplified)

Non-binary (n): a gender that neither identifies as completely male or female.

Stigma (n): a mark of shame.


adj = adjective

n = noun

v = verb

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