The contenders for the 2021 Word of the Year captured the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in our lives.

Strollout: the slow implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination program in Australia. 

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout, which made headlines both at home and abroad in 2021, has inspired the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s word of the year.  

Strollout was chosen from a long list of words and phrases widely used by Australians in a year once again dominated by COVID-19.  

Each year the Centre, based at The Australian National University (ANU), selects a word or expression that has gained prominence in the Australian landscape.  

The Centre’s Director, Dr Amanda Laugesen, says that this year there were inevitably words related to the COVID-19 vaccination program.  

“These became part of the everyday language of ordinary Australians,” she said. 

“As the Delta strain of COVID-19 spread around Australia the urgency of vaccinating the population became clear, with words like vaccination hubs, vaccine hesitancy, vaccine passports, vaccine rollout, and double vaxxed gaining prominence. 

“Large-scale programs to vaccinate millions were implemented worldwide. In Australia the rollout was initially described by political leaders as ‘not a race’. For many Australians, the pace of the rollout was considered too slow.  

“The Australian term strollout captured this mood. The slowness of the rollout didn’t change momentum until vaccination was seen as the ‘pathway to freedom’, particularly as case numbers rose in NSW,” Dr Laugesen said. 

The term even made its way into high-profile international publications like The Washington Post

“It’s yet another example of how a truly Australian expression can make waves globally,” Dr Laugesen said. 

“It’s also captured a very particular moment in our nation’s history. The pandemic has had a profound impact on our society and lives.” 

Some of the words on the Centre’s shortlist reflect the impact of the continuing pandemic, but also include terms related to the ongoing climate emergency and to regional security. 

The full 2021 shortlist includes: 

  • double-vaxxed: having received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • Clayton’s lockdown: a lockdown considered to be inadequate to slow the rate of COVID-19 community transmission. 
  • Fortress Australia: Australia regarded as a country protected and isolated from other countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • AUKUS: a security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States centred on the Indo-Pacific region. 
  • net zero: a target of offsetting the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activity through reduction measures.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre researches Australian English in partnership with Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand, and edits Oxford’s Australian dictionaries.  

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. OUP is the world’s largest university press with the widest global presence.  

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