COVID-19 Terms Added to Oxford English Dictionary


Here’s something you knew would be inevitable. COVID-19 terms we quickly learned during the pandemic are making their way to the dictionary.

Dictionaries are adding COVID-19 terms to their pages as the pandemic continues.

I’m sure this does not surprise you. It was only a matter of time.

The Oxford English Dictionary announced it would add several pandemic-related words. Linguists regard the OED as the definitive authority on the English language. So if you wanted to become official, that’s the place you want to be.

I present just a few of the terms the dictionary added:

  • COVID-19: Let’s begin with the basics. COVID-19 comes from the coronavirus disease, first observed in 2019.
  • Infodemic: I love this one. Take the words information and pandemic and mash them up into a new word. It refers to the misinformation about the pandemic circulating wildly across social media. (Not everyone on Facebook has a medical degree, right?)
  • Self-Isolation: This word is not new to the dictionary. But it’s new in its current context of “self-imposed isolation to prevent catching or transmitting an infectious disease.”
  • Shelter-in-Place: I addressed this term a while back. The better term is “Stay-at-home,” because that’s what officials mean. “Shelter-in-place” carries a connotation to a sudden nuclear or terrorist attack in which you must take cover in whatever environment you’re in. “Stay at home” means to avoid public places and interacting with others, which is the better advice to prevent COVID-19.
  • Social Distancing: Surprisingly, OED says this term has been around since 1957. Who knew? It originally referred to a state of mind of being aloof. These days, it carries a meaning of staying physically apart.

OED lists additional words it added and the stories behind them in this article.

Let’s hope this pandemic doesn’t last long enough for another wave of words to appear!

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.