Meta, Crypto, and Other Words We Learned in 2021

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Empty shelves  at the grocery store / supermarket.

Supply Chain

Blame this one on the pandemic — supply chain problems ranging from a lack of truck drivers to a scarcity of products have become a very real issue, delaying deliveries and leaving store shelves bare. But according to CNN, the term has become a scapegoat for any kind of shortage, whether it has anything to do with the supply chain or not — and it's on Lake Superior State University's annual list of words and phrases that should be banished, which also includes favorites like "new normal" and "you're on mute." 

US Mail


Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines astroturfing as an “organized activity that is intended to create a false impression of a widespread, spontaneously arising, grassroots movement … that is in reality initiated and controlled by a concealed group or organization.” It’s frequently used to lobby lawmakers, flooding their inboxes with emails that may come from a single source using many account names.

Related: How Much Celebs Gave to Political Causes and Candidates in 2021

Mature woman walks down trail in the morning

Awe Walk

Awe walks are strolls where “you intentionally shift your attention outward instead of inward,” Psychology Today says. Though not a new idea, it’s popped back into the zeitgeist again as people look for ways to deal with stress during the pandemic.

Related: 13 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health During a Pandemic

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Before Times

As the pandemic rolls on through its second year, you might be tempted to indulge in a little nostalgia. This term predates the pandemic, but people have been using it to harken back to a time before lockdowns, rapid tests, and vaccines changed the world.

Woman checking fever.


A word that used to describe a significant accomplishment in the fight against some kind of disease has taken a 180, and it now describes infections of people who caught COVID despite being vaccinated.

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A popular TikTok term — pronounced “chew-gee” — describes “someone who is out of date or trying too hard,” says The New York Times. It’s not quite uncool and not always negative. “What is and isn’t cheugy is highly subjective and changing quickly,” the Times says.

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Like the noisy insects it describes, this word tends to surface every 17 years. In 2021, the rise of “Brood X” put it center stage in some parts of the country.

Related: 15 Things You Didn't Know About Cicadas

Gender Reveal


Merriam-Webster defines the word as “of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified with at birth.” Spikes in interest in the word put it on the dictionary’s “word of the year” list.

Related: Workplaces Accused of Having a Toxic Culture

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Copypasta defines this as a block of text that’s been copied and pasted repeatedly. It’s frequently associated with memes and sometimes considered to be a type of spam.

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Short for cryptocurrency — digital money such as Bitcoin or Ethereum with no physical coins or notes. Google says searches for the term peaked in May — right about the time the value of cryptocurrencies took a hit.

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In the world of social media, this means removing a person or group (or their account) from a platform like Facebook or Twitter — usually for spreading misinformation or violating other terms-of-use rules.

Coronavirus, covid-19 newspaper headline clippings. Print media information isolated
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This is a reference to the compulsive act of repeatedly refreshing news feeds on a phone or computer to get the latest about the pandemic.

Young African American man taking Covid 19 vaccine
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Fauci Ouchie

You guessed it; this is a slang term for getting a COVID vaccination using the name of the country’s most recognizable medical expert and vaccine booster, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Young woman preparing takeaway food inside restaurant during coronavirus outbreak - Focus on meal

Ghost Kitchen

These commercial food-prep facilities — without a storefront or seating — have thrived during the pandemic, feeding the rise in delivery-only meals. Google Trends shows several spikes in interest in the phrase this year.

Related: Restaurant Brands Double Down on Ghost Kitchens

Capitol in Washington DC with police fence


Now forever tied to the violent events of Jan. 6, 2021, Merriam-Webster says this word became the one most used by politicians and the media to describe what happened at the U.S. Capitol.

Asian woman caught flu and drinking water in bed at home.


The World Health Organization now uses this term to describe people with COVID symptoms that linger past the initial phase of the infection, sometimes for weeks or months. Informally, those folks might also be called “long haulers.”

Meta logo is shown on a device screen
Fritz Jorgensen/istockphoto

Meta said searches for “meta” jumped 10,860% when Facebook announced it was changing the company’s name to this abstract word, which means “cleverly self-referential,” among other definitions. It comes from the term “metaverse,” which refers to a “highly immersive virtual world where people gather to socialize, play, and work.” Once the stuff of science fiction.

Related: I Quit Facebook for a Month and This Is What Happened

Woman using laptop.
NFT non fungible token

Non-Fungible Token

NFTs, as they’re commonly known, identify unique digital assets such as artwork, videos, or collectibles — pretty much anything — usually bought and sold using cryptocurrency. The craze generated trading volume of $10.7 billion in the third quarter of 2021, according to, with established auction houses like Sotheby’s and pro sports leagues getting in on the game.

Prepare writing check


There’s been a boom in special purpose acquisition companies — also known as “blank check” companies — which are investment vehicles, often with vague goals. A SPAC “may be used to gather funds as a startup or, more likely, it has the intent to merge or acquire another business entity,” says

Sportsman flexing biceps after workout


If someone says you’re thirsty, they don’t mean you need a drink, they think you’re craving approval or attention.

FYI or for your information word on black block


Did you know there was a three-letter acronym for the phrase “three letter acronym?” Irony really is dead.

Vial Of Covid-19 Vaccine In A Medical Research Lab

Vaccine and Vax

Merriam-Webster says “vaccine” — its word of the year — “was about much more than medicine in 2021.” It not only held out hope of an end to the pandemic but was the center of debates over politics and personal choice, among other things. “Few words can express so much about one moment in time,” the dictionary publisher said. The publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary had a similar idea, choosing “vax” as their word of the year.

Doctor with a positive blood sample for the new variant detected of the coronavirus strain called covid DELTA. Research of new strains and mutations of Covid 19 coronavirus in the laboratory


Most people probably hadn’t heard so many Greek letters thrown around since their college years. But as the pandemic progressed, we learned about the more significant Covid-19 variants such as beta, delta, and now omicron. 

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Merriam-Webster says this slang word means to be “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of race and social justice).” The term has been around for a while, but Google shows interest in it peaked last April.

An Asian father and son are eating while looking at screen of electronic device of them at home.

Work From Home (WFH)

There was no escaping the acronym in 2021 — especially for those people who’d left offices and were trying to figure out when they’d be called back in. Not to mention a growing group of people who never want to work in an office again.