10 words and phrases that we’d never used before 2020

If you could travel back in time to your December 2019 self to try and explain the past year to them, the likelihood is they wouldn’t understand half of the words you had said. Over the course of the pandemic, we have added a multitude of words and phrases to our vocabulary that would mean nothing to our past selves, and they’d certainly never feel inclined to use them in daily conversation.

Words like lockdown and furlough have dominated news headlines and Facebook chats since February 2020 and they’re so natural to us now, it’s like we’ve always known what they meant. We’ve rounded up a list of a few of the words and phrases that are completely commonplace now, but that we’d never even heard of before Covid-19.


We all sort of know what furlough means now, though the particulars are still a bit muddled, but before 2020 the likelihood of you using the word furlough, never mind being paid 80% of your wages to watch Netflix and worry about the pandemic going on outside, was pretty slim.

Rapid Antigen testing

A saviour of the pandemic, rapid antigen tests like the Healgen Antigen test, have allowed us to test ourselves at home to ensure we’re not unknowingly spreading Covid-19. Past you, though, may have trouble understanding what this phrase could possibly mean in a world where Covid-19 did not yet exist.


We could probably have guessed at what lockdown meant but having endured three of them, the word lockdown now serves as a grim and all-too-clear reminder of days spent longing for the outdoors in a way we couldn’t have imagined pre-pandemic.

Social distancing

Though some of us may have been practising social distancing pre-pandemic, we didn’t have a name for it then. Social distancing has been said so many times in the past year by so many different people that it is an integral part of our vocabulary now.


If someone had presented you with the acronym ‘WFH’ pre-pandemic, it may have taken a few hours and some clues to guess what it meant. Now, we know it means sitting in your pyjama bottoms with a shirt on top and pretending that you’re dressed as you Zoom your colleagues from the bedroom that is now your office.


Of course, we couldn’t miss Zoom off this list. We’ve had Zoom calls, Zoom bar crawls, Zoom quizzes and even some Zoom fatigue this year. At this point, most of us are just waiting to take a Healgen Antigen test and go to an event that isn’t happening on our computer screens.

Tier system

It will all end in tiers. That was the motto of the latter half of the pandemic as we all learned what county we lived in through a list of numbered tiers that defined whether or not we were allowed to leave the house that day.


Iso for short. Ten days spent trying not to spread Covid-19 and deciding which new Netflix show to watch. Like social distancing, self-isolation was probably practiced before the pandemic, sans the deadly virus, we just didn’t have a way to define it.


I mean, pre-pandemic this would still have sounded pretty grim. Now we know the definition of it, it’s even worse. Super-spreader events were events in the past year that resulted in a higher than usual transmission of Covid-19.

Support bubble

And finally, support bubble. Another phrase in which, pre-pandemic, we would have known only the individual words. Little did we know, these two words would form to create a phrase defining (sort of) who we were allowed to see and when during the months of lockdowns.