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500 Words and Oxford Dictionaries for Children

Oxford Children's Word of the Year 2020


The 2020 Oxford Children's Word of the Year is . . . CORONAVIRUS!

Oxford Children's Word of the Year 2020


The 2020 Oxford Children's Word of the Year is . . . CORONAVIRUS!

Oxford Dictionaries for Children has once again teamed up with BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show and Chris Evans' 500 WORDS—the nationwide competition to find the most talented young writers!

This year, the 10th anniversary of BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show and Chris Evans’ 500 Words story writing competition, saw more than 134,000 children submit stories. The Oxford Children’s Dictionaries & Language Data team at Oxford University Press have been poring through all of the entries to reveal a wealth of insights into children’s evolving use of language and identify the 2020 Oxford Children’s Word of the Year as ‘coronavirus'.

Why coronavirus?

Previous Children’s Word of the Year include Brexit (2019), plastic (2018), Trump (2017), and refugee (2016), indicating the influence of global affairs on children’s creativity. Standing out this year was the first appearance of the word coronavirus and associated words or names, such as Covid-19 and Wuhan.

In many stories, the word is specifically associated with China, and many narratives contained realistic physiological and medical details associated with the coronavirus. However, the young writers also show a delightful blend of humour, fantasy, and creativity as they write about searching for cures and dive into science fiction.

The competition closed on 27 February—before the first case of transmission within the UK was documented and weeks before the UK lockdown—meaning that many of the children’s coronavirus science fiction stories, today reflect real life in the UK. This demonstrates the influence the media has on young people’s awareness of global current affairs and their ability to hone in on important issues and transform them into imaginative narratives.

For detailed analysis, read the 2020 Oxford Corpus Summary Report.

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