2020: The year of ____

All the ways we tried to summarize 2020

Pictures of a coronavirus vaccine, Black Lives Matter protests, Animal Crossing, and an Alabama football player
(Image credit: Illustrated | SAMUEL CORUM/AFP via Getty Images, Jeff J Mitchell - Pool /Getty Images, Courtesy/Nintendo, Todd Kirkland/Getty Images, Amguy/iStock)

How do you sum up an entire year in a single word or phrase? This was the question that drove my first-ever collection of headlines that attempted to do so back in 2016 (the year of "Zika," "Snapchat," and "worst year in history" — little did we know).

Normally when I round up the internet's attempts to distill the past 12 months, a pattern begins to emerge slowly, the way 2018 came to be defined by women and the aftershocks of #MeToo, or how 2017 was shaped by President Trump. Not so for 2020, when it is abundantly clear what event set the tone for the year.

In fact, "2020 was so many things, it eludes easy summary as 'The Year of ...'," The Des Moines Register's Rick Autry warns. But, being human, we tried regardless to find the words to sum up a year that none of us will ever forget.

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2020 was the...

Year of surprises

Year of blur

Year of the celebrity candle

Year of the $699 phone

Year of the political fancam

Year socialism went mainstream

Year of tumult in politics

Year of the ghoul

Year of the woman

Year of 'No woman need apply'

(Yet another) year of venture capital being really white

Year of tragedy and triumph for Black Lives Matter

Year of protests

Year of the protester

Year of the electric bike

Year of (stellar) astronomical events

Year of the rookie?

Year of the Crimson Tide comeback

Year of the big buck

Year of the birdie

Year of the dog (and other animals)

Year of the beep

Year of Bong Joon-ho (and cow insemination)

Year of anxie-TV

Year of the docuseries

Year of the party episode

Year of the introvert?

Year of the Chromebook?

Year of the casual gamer

Year of the Twitch streamer

Year of Animal Crossing

Year of the stan

Year of the animated music video

Year of the virtual concert

Year of the tiny turkey

Year of the restaurant DIY meal kit

Year of takeout

Year of the drive-through

Year for the at-home workout heroes

Year relaxation became impossible

Year for cannabis

Year of the second home

Year of the neighborhood

Year of the walker

Year of educational unknowns

Year of reckoning for [the] media industry

Year of the Webinar

Year of Zoom

Year of 'topsy-turvy' business

Year of the slow refund

Year of the reset

Year of the essential homelessness worker

Year for Crispr

Year of the nurse

Year of the facemask

Year of the mask

Year of the ugly holiday facemask

Year of the bubble

Year of being together

Year of living cautiously

Year of hard-won lessons

Year of the global wake-up call

Year of reckonings across the United States

Year of converging crises

Year of resiliency

Year of catastrophe

Year to cultivate hope and peace

Year of trials, tragedies, and tears

Year of sickness, unrest — and sparks of hope

Year of what we missed, for better and worse

Year we lost

Year of change

Year when everything changed

Year that was more of everything

Year of the virus

Year of the coronavirus

Year of the pandemic

Year of the Great Pandemic

Year of the COVID-19 pandemic

Year of COVID-19

Year of COVID

Year like no other

Year like no other

Year like no other

Year like no other

Year like no other

Year like no other

Year like … well, you know

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