Many countries have used lockdowns to respond to the coronavirus.
A lockdown is when people in a place or area are prevented from leaving or traveling around freely:
“There are lockdowns in many U.S. cities that have closed restaurants.”
In the past, we’ve used this word mostly for prisons and jails in which the inmates (prisoners) couldn’t leave their cells (small rooms where they sleep), usually to prevent fights within the prison.
With the coronavirus crisis, a lockdown has meant that people cannot go to work, stores, restaurants, gyms, etc., unless necessary.
There is also a phrasal verb to lock down:
“We are locking down Los Angeles to prevent coronavirus from spreading.”
Being in a lockdown, as we have been here in Los Angeles, isn’t very fun.
But it’s better than being locked up!
To lock up people is to put them in prison. If you are locked up, you are a prisoner in jail. That’s not very fun, either.
There’s an old expression: “Lock him/her up and throw away the key!” This means to put someone in prison or punish someone for the rest of his or her life.
Finally, there is the phrasal verb to lock in.
To lock someone in can mean closing a door and locking it so no one can leave or enter.
“To lock in” can also be used when you are buying something, such as a house.
House buyers in the U.S. will often try to “lock in” the rate of interest they will pay on a mortgage (a loan to buy a house). This prevents the rate from going up in the future.
To learn more about prisons and related vocabulary, see our Cultural English 235 lesson.
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