New Words Added to Dictionary.com Address COVID-19's Impact on Language
New Additions, Updates Reflect Timely Words Related to Global Pandemic
22 Apr, 2020, 08:00 ET
OAKLAND, Calif., April 22, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Dictionary.com announced today the addition of new words and updated definitions that are top of mind due to COVID-19 and its widespread effect on the world. Additions include names for the disease itself, with definitions now available for COVID-19 and novel coronavirus, as well as a slang name, rona, that's making its way across social channels.
"One of the primary functions of language is to express identity, and there is something communal about the new vocabulary we are all acquiring during this crisis," said Dictionary.com lexicographer Heather Bonikowski. "When we use these new COVID-19 words with each other, we are showing our membership in a group, almost as an act of solidarity—a way to say we're all in this together."
The virus has had a profound impact on everyday life, including the language used to describe it. People around the world have been asked to hunker down in their homes while shelter-in -place orders have been issued by government officials. This new normal has generated a new discourse that encompasses all aspects of society, from public health (germaphobe, fomites), to the economy (profiteering, price gouging), to social media trends (rona).
The pandemic has also brought new relevance and meaning to words that have been in the lexicon for years. It has made terms such as social distance a part of everyday communication. It also has brought the medical abbreviation PPE to the forefront as healthcare workers face shortages of such equipment. News reports focus on worldwide containment efforts as research indicates asymptomatic carriers are contributing to the rapid spread of the virus.
Dictionary.com uses a number of tools to determine which words are widely used and should earn a place in the online dictionary. Lexicographers review and discover new words in everything from academic journals, pop culture sources, and user suggestions, while analyzing its search data and behavior to identify user interest and trends.
"In these unprecedented times, we're humbled that people come to Dictionary.com," said Jennifer Steeves-Kiss, CEO of Dictionary.com. "For parents, educators, students, workers, concerned users all over the world—our team takes very seriously the information our updates can provide amid confusion."
A selection of recently added words and updated definitions can be found below. Click on each term to view the full entry on Dictionary.com.
- COVID-19: coronavirus disease 2019: a potentially severe respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus and characterized by fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.
- fomites: inanimate objects whose surfaces can become contaminated with pathogens when touched by the carrier of an infection and can then transmit the pathogens to those who next touch the surfaces.
- germaphobe: a person who has an irrational or disproportionate fear of germs and contamination.
- hunker down: to settle in to the safety of one's home or other designated shelter for a potentially prolonged time, as would be necessitated by a natural disaster or an outbreak of a contagious disease.
- novel coronavirus: a coronavirus that has not previously been detected or reported.
- price gouging: an act or instance of charging customers too high a price for goods or services, especially when demand is high and supplies are limited.
- profiteering: the act or practice of seeking exorbitant profits, especially through the sale of scarce or rationed goods.
- rona: Slang. COVID-19.
- shelter in place: (noun) an official order, issued during an emergency, that directs people to stay in the indoor place or building that they already occupy and not to leave unless absolutely necessary. (verb) to stay in a safe indoor place or building during an emergency.
New Definitions for Existing Entries:
- asymptomatic: (of a person with a disease or other medical condition) experiencing no symptoms or evidence of illness or abnormality.
- containment: an act or policy of limiting the expansion or spread of a natural disaster, contagious disease, or other dangerous thing.
- novel: not previously detected or reported.
- PPE: personal protective equipment: specialized clothing or other wearable gear that minimizes one's exposure to sources of illness or injury, and in medical contexts helps to inhibit the spread of infection to others.
- social distance: (noun) a safe or appropriate distance or amount of space between two people or between people in a group. (verb) to maintain a safe or appropriate distance from other people, especially to slow the spread of a contagious illness or disease. (verb) to place or keep at a safe or appropriate distance from other people.
Dictionary.com is the world's leading online source for definitions, word origins, and a whole lot more. From Word of the Day to the stories behind today's slang, Dictionary.com unlocks the secrets of the English language for millions of people.
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