COVID-19 or the coronavirus?

Mar 19, 2020
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The Macquarie Dictionary is constantly being reviewed and updated to make sure the words and definitions being offered are the most relevant possible. We appreciate any feedback on posts or suggestions of new words (we love them in fact).

We have had a number of queries about COVID-19 and other words to describe reactions and measures following the global pandemic.

An entry for COVID-19 will be appearing online in our next update along with its established variant forms coronavirusWuhan coronavirus and 2019-nCov.

There is always fluidity with new terms but what we are seeing becoming established in Australian English is the form coronavirus over the coronavirus and the capitalised COVID-19 rather than Covid-19.
 
As most of us are now aware thanks to the 24/7 news cycle focused almost entirely on COVID-19, a coronavirus is not a new development. This word means "an RNA virus affecting mammals, the cause of a variety of illnesses in humans, including the common cold." As a word, COVID-19 exists to differentiate it from other coronaviruses. Broken into parts, the word means CO(RONA)VI(RUS) + D(ISEASE) + (20)19 (referring to the year it was first reported).
 
There are other terms which have also come into our environment such as social distancingP2 mask, etc., which will also be reflected in our update. But if you find any others, please let us know.
 
We hope everyone stays safe as many people start to work from home and self-isolate.
 
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Want more? Listen to Word for Word #32 Defining COVID-19 

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7 Comments

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John - March 23, 2020, 12:28 p.m.

Not really helpful, but maybe over time the term 'flattening the curve' just means doing nothing in the sense of:
B1: 'Big plans this weekend, B2?'
B2: 'Just flattening the curve, B1.'
B1: ...
B2: 'As in, no plans. Literally just eating chips on the couch.'
B1: 'Oh, cool. Have fun ... doing that.'


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Marcella - March 24, 2020, 1:22 p.m.

I'm noticing usage trickle for it to be written as sentence case too - Covid-19 - as the term becomes more commonly woven into our language. Which will you go with?


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Macquarie Dictionary Admin - June 2, 2020, 4:08 p.m.

It's still overwhelmingly all upper case but yes, we are seeing a few instances of only initial capital emerging - Covid-19. We are keeping an eye on this. Depending upon frequency it may be added as a variant form.


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Linda - March 31, 2020, 5:51 p.m.

I've noticed that shops and other businesses are being described as 'shuttered' rather than merely 'shut' during the Covid-19 crisis. This seems appropriate for New York, where all street-level businesses do indeed have shutters, but in Australian towns and cities? Perhaps in some locations. Is 'shuttered' a borrowed expression used in a context where it is less relevant?


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Macquarie Dictionary Admin - June 2, 2020, 4:09 p.m.

We will be covering this verb sense of shutter in our next update - also the phrase put up (or draw) the shutters. The straight verb (to shutter a business) is most common in the US but it is found elsewhere to a much lower degree. It has been in figurative use 'to close off something' since the late 1900s. The phrase forms are more common in British and Australian English. We also use the phrase here to talk about retirement as well as in a sense to concentrate on something without being affected by any outside influence or intervention.


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Tane - May 2, 2020, 12:47 a.m.

iv seen posted on Facebook "Christ over viral infectious diseases" not much into prayer myself though


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Nigel - June 10, 2020, 9:42 p.m.

It is my understanding that COVID-19 is the name given (by the WHO on 11 February 2020) to the disease caused by the coronavirus called 'severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2' (or SARS-CoV-2). COVID-19 is therefore technically not an alternative name for the virus itself, even though it is often used this way. Prior to it being officially named on 11 Feb, the disease was often referred to as '2019 novel coronavirus' (or 2019 nCoV). See sources:

https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/transcripts/who-audio-emergencies-coronavirus-full-press-conference-11feb2020-final.pdf?sfvrsn=e2019136_2

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance/naming-the-coronavirus-disease-(covid-2019)-and-the-virus-that-causes-it


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