And The 2020 Australian Word Of The Year Goes To …

Secret Adelaide Secret Adelaide

And The 2020 Australian Word Of The Year Goes To …


That’s right. Iso has taken out the top spot.

Around the world, us Aussies are known for being laid back, easy-going, and bloody hard to understand. And in times of crisis or trouble, we stick to our guns and keep coming up with new lingo that properly expresses what we want to say in as few letters, words or sounds as possible. (Featured image: Joey Csunyo)

Why do we do this? Because we can. It’s also important to our identity, and we like to poke fun at things that should worry us — it’s our way of coping.

Subsequently, the shortlist for this year’s award, as voted for by The Australian National Dictionary Centre, contained five expressions where only one of which was unrelated to the global pandemic, but very much related to another catastrophic event — our bushfires.

Iso beat out ”Black Summer”, ”Bubble”, ”Covid normal” and ”Driveway”, which acknowledged the numerous compounds we used it with like driveway dawn service.

Credit: @photoholgic on Unsplash

Amanda Laugesen, the chief editor of The Australian National Dictionary, said that iso ”was a particularly Australian take on the global outbreak, which had changed language worldwide.”

Speaking to ABC Radio Canberra, she said that “we’ve also found that the word was used in combination with a whole lot of things.”

There’s been iso baking, iso kilos, iso waistline, iso fashion, iso bubbles, and iso haircuts among so many other variations. Pretty much, if you did something while in iso, it was iso-ised.


“It was quite a linguistically productive word,” explained Amanda Laugesen.

Doing the rounds on Facebook earlier on in the year was a post predicting new slang terms to be used amid the coronavirus pandemic. Iso was among them, and just like proper educational materials, there was an example sentence beneath to make sure we all understood.

Can’t translate? You’ll find the full glossary below.

It seems that many of us did, and took quite a liking to iso.

Other commenters debated whether ‘magpie’ was the correct term to assign to people hoarding food and supplies from supermarkets, suggesting that ‘bowerbird’ might be better. Nonetheless, they were assured that since both magpies and supermarket stockpilers ‘swoop’ and will kill for their babies (i.e. toilet paper), it’s definitely appropriate. I, on the other hand, have debated in my head whether hand sanitiser should be ‘sanny’ or ‘sano’.

Other commenters were already thinking of the future and were coming up with names for the kids born in nine months’ time. The stand out at the time was ‘coronials’ but now that iso has taken out the top spot for Australian word of the year, I’m thinking that they should be called iso babies.

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