Macquarie Dictionary


Word of the Year category insight | Environment

There are a 15 categories in the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year competition (you can check the full list of words here). Each category consists of five words, with the winner of each category forming part of our shortlist and going in to the running for Word of the Year. In light of the pandemic, we also introduced a special COVID category for 2020. You can read about it here.

This year, pyrocumulonimbus is the 2020 Environment category winner. In addition to this, the word has received an Honourable Mention from our Committee.

pyrocumulonimbus is a cumulonimbus cloud which forms above a source of intense heat, such as a bushfire or volcanic eruption. In a year when the pandemic has dominated local and global headlines, we still remember how the Black Summer bushfires left a mark on our landscape, and our language. One other word on the shortlist, black hail, a weather phenomenon caused by bushfires, also has its origin in the bushfire events that began in summer of 2019 and continued through 2020.

Check out the other four words in this category and their definitions below. Find out which word was voted the People’s Choice Word of the Year.

black hail

noun dark-coloured hail which results from atmospheric conditions of a firestorm, the airborne soot and ash of the fire mixing with ice particles which form the hailstones.

Humpback Highway

noun Colloquial either of two marine migration corridors along the eastern and western coasts of Australia, as used by humpbacks moving from Antarctic waters to warmer waters of the north to breed before returning. 

Also, humpback highway, whalehighway.

net zero

adjective (of a building) producing an amount of energy, as from a renewable source, which offsets the amount of energy consumed: a net zero apartment complex. 

Also, net-zero.

plant blindness

noun a tendency to be unaware of or to ignore the flora in one’s immediate environment.

[coined in 1998 by US botanists Elisabeth Schussler and James Wandersee]

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