Words And Phrases That Trended In 2021

2021 was a big year. Among many, many other things, we had insurrection at the Capitol, a presidential inauguration and the first female vice president, the summer Olympics in Tokyo, a NASA rover landed on Mars, the Oprah interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Juneteenth became a holiday, Britney Spears released from her conservatorship (#FreeBritney), and, of course, sadly, COVID-19 kept being a thing (per History).

We had food trends like baked feta pasta and social media trends like the milk crate challenge. Olivia Rodrigo's song "Driver's License" was listened to 1.1 billion times on Spotify, and Bad Bunny was the world's most streamed artist, followed by Taylor Swift (via Spotify). People watched plenty of TV, becoming obsessed with Netflix's "Squid Game," "Money Heist," and "Bridgerton." "Ted Lasso" was a favorite on Apple+, and people loved the expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Disney+ with "Loki," "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," and "WandaVision" (per Forbes).

With all the excitement and changing times of 2021, the world started using new words. Here are the ones that trended this year.

With life changing as we know it in the pandemic, we face a 'new normal'

According to Google Ngram Viewer that tracks how words and phrases are used over time, the most searched and used phrase in 2021 was "new normal" (per Business Standard). It refers to how life has changed in a way that we couldn't have expected (via Forbes). Think of mask wearing, not shaking hands, and working from home as the "new normal" during the pandemic — whether those become just plain "normal" and not new anymore is still to be determined. The phrase has been used in other major, world-changing contexts, like after 9/11 (via Studies in Political Economy).

Millions of people quit their jobs in the "Great Resignation"

In 2021, millions of people quit their jobs, which led to the phrase "The Great Resignation." Associate Professor of Management at Texas A&M University Anthony Klotz is credited with the phrase, and he describes why it happened (via NPR). "During the pandemic, because there was a lot of death and illness and lockdowns, we really had the time and the motivation to sit back and say, do I like the trajectory of my life? Am I pursuing a life that brings me well-being?"

Netflix's Bridgerton brought us 'regencycore'

Debuting on Christmas 2020, the Netflix show "Bridgerton" became a worldwide phenomenon (per Deadline). The drama and romance from the show, set in 1813 amidst England's Regency Era, helped spawn the fashion trend and the word regencycore. Regencycore fashion features empire-waist dresses, puffy sleeves, and pearl-encrusted headpieces (per Lulus). It also applies to makeup. According to Byrdie, regencycore makeup is all about lightweight foundation and creamy natural blush matched to your lip color.

'NFTs' are a way to own a one-of-a-kind piece of digital art

Non-fungible tokens (NFT) weren't first invented in 2021, but they became a worldwide phenomenon this year as a way to buy and sell digital art. According to Investopedia, NFTs are "cryptographic assets on a blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata that distinguish them from each other." Some NFTs, like co-founder of Twitter Jack Dorsey's first Tweet, have sold for millions (per Business Insider).

"To compare it to traditional art collecting, there are endless copies of the Mona Lisa in circulation," Solo Ceesay, co-founder of Calaxy, explained to Business Insider, "but there is only one original. NFT technology helps assign the ownership of the original piece."

A 'bones or no bones day' can help you decide what to do

If you're looking for someone or something to tell you what kind of day you're going to have, look no further than 13-year-old pug Noodle. Noodle and his owner Jon Graziano went viral on TikTok and gave us the phrase "bones or no bones." Basically, Graziano picks Noodle up from his doggy bed in the morning, and if Noodle sinks back down, it's a "no-bones" day, when you should take it easy. If he stays standing, it's a "bones" day, which means it's going to be a good day, and you should get out there and treat yourself.

If you're not on trend, you're 'cheugy'

While "cheugy" was coined in 2013 by Gaby Rasson when she was at Beverly Hills High School, it hit the mainstream in 2021 with Hallie Cain's TikTok post defining the word as "the opposite of trendy." "Certain types of words go through trends just like clothing and accessories do," linguist Gretchen McCulloch explained how the word itself became trendy to The NY Times. "Groovy meant cool, now it's dated. Coming up with a word like cheugy is a way to distance yourself from something that used to be really popular until very recently."