English Buzzwords Your Students Might Ask About

Buzzwords are often phrases, or single words, that become inexplicably popular at a particular time, and they are used almost to the point of becoming a cliche. Sometimes they belong to slang and colloquial language.

Every field has its own buzzwords – medicine, finance, marketing, business, teaching... and they are used both in written and spoken communication. They can be newly coined. They may have been around since forever, but somehow they have a new meaning in a new context.

We bet there are plenty of buzzwords you already know, and have been using in regular speech.  But here are a list that are particularly prevalent at the moment, and your students might ask about what they mean and where they came from.

Hop on a call

“Hop on a call” makes it onto lists as one of the most annoying buzzwords of 2021. With much more remote working, less travel and fewer face to face meetings, we are all getting used to zooming, or skyping, or “teams-ing”. Why we need to hop on a call, and not just, “call” is a mystery.

We used to hop on one leg, or hop on a bus, with hop literally meaning a quick little jump. Whether the derivation is from the technical sphere of network connections, or to denote a quick little call is unknown. Some people love it, some people hate it. But it’s probably here to stay.  

Pitch an idea

If you’re trying to pitch an idea to someone, you’re trying to convince them your plan is going to work and bring some significant profit. You can think of this like pitching a ball in baseball – you are throwing your idea to the recipient, hoping they will do something good with it (but not hitting it out of the park!) You’re trying to sell your idea to someone.

But, while you’re doing that, make sure you don’t use too many buzz words. You may make your idea sound like a bunch of empty words even though it’s great. Even though buzzwords are something you should know, overusing them won’t help you and your superiors definitely won’t take you seriously.

Bottom line

This one has also been ranked on many ’I hate this buzzword’ lists. At some point, it became so annoying for people that they actually started avoiding it. The meaning is, in fact, quite simple: for a long time, it was used to point out a conclusion, of an article for instance. A synonym would be ’outcome’.

In common usage however it has become almost exclusively associated to financial matters, meaning ’income’ or ’profit’, depending on the context.

Many people still choose this annoying buzzword. The bottom line is, stop saying bottom line.


The popularity of this buzzword has increased dramatically along with the growth of social media. Be honest, saying yes to a ring isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind anymore. Engagement used to be an agreement to get married to the love of your life, or an arrangement to do something or go somewhere at a set time.

Now it’s all about the comments on your latest post on Facebook. Engagement is one of the key performance indicators (KPI) and as such, this buzzword is truly important to every social media manager.

Paradigm shift

If they tell you there’s going to be a paradigm shift in your company’s business practices, know that they’re planning to move it upside down. You may be wondering why. Sometimes, there’s really been a meeting and the managers have decided to do what’s best for the company, but in some other cases, they realize they have made a terrible mistake, which requires immediate action. Action that can result in a paradigm shift.

Superspreader, furlough, twindemic

The Oxford English Dictionary usually selects a “Word of the Year”, which has often arisen from a buzzword in common parlance. For example in 2017 it was “Youthquake”, meaning a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’. This largely reflected the response from young people in particular to climate activism.

In 2020 the unprecedented effects of the global COVID pandemic meant the OED did not choose one word, but many. On a long list, some of the more buzzwordy were,

  • Superspreader
  • Furlough
  • Twindemic
  • Zoombombing
  • Bubble
  • Covidiot

Each of these words, new or repurposed, has taken on a new meaning, one that will forever be linked to 2020.

All these buzzwords, whether you love or hate them, show the infinite flexibility and range of the English language to communicate a great depth of meaning. We all love that about the English language!