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Japan's 'Word of the Year' for 2020 Released

Learning Japanese Deeper Japan Stay Home

While 2020 has certainly had its share of ups, there have also been a lot of downs, and dictionary publishing company Sanseido had a lot of strong contenders for its annual Word of the Year contest.

The contest looks at pop culture and society over the past year and chooses a word that best expresses the year as a whole. For example, 2019’s Word of the Year ~Pay was reflective of the rise in popularity of cashless transaction apps, such as PayPay or LINE Pay.

For 2020, a lot of new words sprung up into everyday conversation such as "social distance," "lockdown," and "stay home," previously unused in Japanese day-to-day life, which was why it was a huge surprise when Sanseido announced the 2020 Word of the Year was ぴえん (pien).

Pien is a word used mostly by young girls on social media to denote sadness or mild disappointment, although it can also mean crying tears of joy or happiness too. Pair it with the watery-eyed emoji for that perfect pien use. For example:

"I went to the shops to get some Milo, but it was all sold out! Pien