As we slowly emerge from a rather extraordinary period in human history, it’s not only the way we work, shop, get about and interact that has changed. Many words, both pre-existing and entirely novel, have entered into everyday usage. Below is a selection of our favourites that will help you build your vocabulary bank…

Unprecented use of the word unprecedented

The last few months have been nothing short of unique, once in a lifetime, without precedent. Billions of us have been confined to our homes, millions have lost their jobs and too many have sadly lost their lives as a result of this pandemic. One word’s usage has risen to great heights during this period. Use of the word unprecedented, an adjective defined in the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary as something “that has never happened, been done or known before”, rose to levels never before seen or recorded. It’s fair to say that, given this definition, we are in truly unprecedented times. However the use of the word, also rose to unprecedented levels (sorry for this unprecedented use of the word), as seen by the Google Trends data for the last 12 months.

Elbow bump

Given that physical distancing requirements imposed around the world to contain the spread of coronavirus mean that we can’t get close to one another, we’re now unable to shake hands, hug, kiss or otherwise. For those who were always averse to getting close to others (a trait typically associated with British people, whether true or not is another matter), this period brings with it something of a positive amongst all the very negative news. No longer are handshakes the social norm, as this period has given rise to a new phenomenon, whereby we greet each other with our elbows in order to avoid touching hands and reduce the risk of passing on infection. From footballers to politicians, this is one part of what is being called the “new normal” that we should get used to.

An example of an elbow bump

Zoom and zoom related vocabulary

For the vast majority of us, until very recently zoom was nothing more than the process of magnification for a camera or binoculars. In recent times however, the online webconferencing tool has risen to prominence as the main method of keeping in touch with friends, family and work colleagues during the lockdown. People from all walks of life (including some grandparents for the very first time!) have now become familiar with the communications platform that was little known and very little used outside of tech environments before 2020. Although zoom existed prior to 2020 (in both the magnification and webconferencing sense), new words related to the online tool have appeared in English, such as “zoombombing”. It is a noun referring to the act of someone who is neither invited nor solicited entering into a zoom chat. Its origins lie with a word that was previously in existence, photobombing, that relates to the act of somebody “bombing” a photo with their presence without permission. There have been reports of some zoombombers being nothing more than a nuisance, whilst others have used obscene and offensive language, causing a lot of grief to the unsuspecting victims. Zoom has now been updated however, with tools and tricks to avoid this from happening.


Before the times of coronavirus, PPE was an acronym most typically associated with the internationally renowned Philosophy, Politics and Economics degree from the University of Oxford, most commonly associated with those along the corridors of power of many governments around the world. Nowadays however, the acronym has taken on a newfound prominence, referring to the Personal Protective Equipment that doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers need to protect themselves from coronavirus as they treat and look after patients.

Three healtcare workers with personal protective equipment (PPE)


Have you ever found yourself reading through page after page of news related to the current situation, getting the feeling that doing so is bad for you, yet have been unable to control yourself from continuing? Well, you’re not alone. Doom-scrolling is something that all of us have probably been guilty of at some period during the last few months. Doom-scrolling is a noun referring to the act of endlessly scrolling through pages of news, almost all of it bad. Not only that, but it also refers to the inability to resist continuing, even though we know that what we are doing is bad for our wellbeing.


Instead of doom-scrolling, why not try a quarantini if you ever find yourself in a lockdown again? A portmanteau of quarantine and martini, this noun refers to any cocktail (not just a martini) that you drink whilst isolated at home. Check out this list of 10 quarantini recipes if you need any inspiration. Given that Madrid is getting sunny and hot now, we recommend a daiquiri (strawberry and kiwi or banana are a sure bet) or a piña colada, although it’s unlikely that you’ll get caught in the rain here any time soon if that’s your thing.


Get about (v) – A phrasal verb meaning to travel or move around.
Spread (n) – the development or growth of something like a disease so that it affects a larger number of people.*
Averse (adj) – Be against or not like something.*
Trait (n) – A characteristic of something or someone, usually used to describe personality.
Social norm (n) – A behaviour or characteristic that is socially acceptable eg shaking hands in Europe, bowing in Asia.
Nuisance (n) – A person or a thing that is annoying or that makes you uncomfortable.
Renowned (adj) – Well-known or famous.
Corridors of power (n) – A figurative way of talking about the government of a country, referring to the corridors where government politicians have their offices.
Scrolling [to scroll] (v) – The act of using a computer mouse wheel or your finger on a screen to move up and down through the pages of a website.
Wellbeing (n) – the state of feeling healthy and happy.*
Portmanteau (n) – A word that is created by joining together two other words.
Sure bet (n) – Something that you are sure about and want to recommend to others. The origins of this come from being confident that a particular horse or team will win in sport and placing a bet based on this confidence.

Note: Words in this glossary are explained in the context of this blog. Some words may have more than one meaning and may also belong to more than one word class (verb (v), noun (n), adjective (adj) or adverb (adv)).

*Source: Cambridge Dictionary