The Language of Covid

Our language evolves with the times.  Just a few short years ago, the term “COVID” was not yet invented.  Much like “ginormous” and “frenemy” were officially added to our lexicon in the last ten years, COVID is now on the tips of most tongues in our country, and in the world as well.

COVID-19 is one of many forms of the coronavirus, with the others having been previously identified prior to COVID.  The term “COVID” is derived from the terms coronavirus and disease:  Co for Corona, vi for virus, and d for disease.  Hence, COVID.  “19” was added because it was discovered in 2019, more than two years ago.  It was deemed a “novel” or ‘new’ coronavirus. 

Other words and phrases that have become much more frequently used in the last two years regarding COVID-19 include:

  • social distancing:  exactly what it says, needs no further explanation.
  • contact tracing:  the effort, however futile it may have become, to trace the cases back to the transmission source. 
  • epidemic:  a localized outbreak of an illness.  If an entire community becomes ill, it is considered an epidemic. 
  • pandemic:  a worldwide outbreak of a disease.  Think of it as an epidemic with a passport.  It can, and does travel worldwide.
  • PPE: personal protective equipment.  This includes face masks, goggles, face shields, gloves, gowns, slippers, and any other form of covering for the body to protect it from infection.  In the early days of COVID-19, there was a shortage of PPE, making it difficult for medical professionals to protect themselves against potential infection.
  • epidemiologist: a scientist who studies public health as a branch of medicine, including the analysis, incidence and control of diseases.
  • herd immunity:  if a significant percentage of the population has either been infected or vaccinated against an infectious disease, the virus cannot continue to replicate to stay alive, and it is determined to no longer be a risk. 
  • immunosuppression:  the condition whereby an individual has a reduced ability to fight off infections due to health conditions not related to COVID 19.
  • asymptomatic:  an infected person who is showing no symptoms of the disease. 
  • Remdesivir:  an anti-viral drug that is administered intravenously to inhibit viral replication.  It was first developed to treat Ebola.
  • respirator:  a device designed to prevent inhalation of hazardous material
  • ventilator:  not to be confused with a respirator, it is a machine that mechanically moves air in and out of a person’s lungs for severe respiratory conditions. 
  • super-spreader:  a highly contagious individual who spreads the disease to a large number of people through multiple networks of contacts.  An event with multiple people infected who spread it to others is known as a super spreader event.
  • antibody:  a blood protein made by the immune system as a response to an invading disease.  Antibodies are unique to a particular disease, the body strategizes and develops these weapons to fight this particular disease. 
  • pulse oximeter:  a device that measures oxygen saturation in the blood, as well as pulse.  It is typically measured through the finger; it is clipped on the end and fits the finger snugly for measurement.
  • Variant:  a mutation of the original virus.  Just like humans, it is a living thing, and wants to stay alive.  It will change and evolve in order to do just that.  The most noted variants were the delta and omicron, which are named after the Greek alphabet.


“COVID-19” is perhaps one of the ugliest words we have had to incorporate into our vocabulary.  There are, however, other words beginning with ‘C’ that we are all familiar with, and should focus upon in these difficult times:

  • compassion: treating others with kindness and concern, regardless of their beliefs, is especially important at this time.  For those who are, or who have been infected, this kindness is especially important, as well as those who have lost loved ones due to COVID.
  • caring: closely related to compassion, we need to extend efforts to help those who may be in need, if we are able.
  • consideration: most of us are on one side or the other of the debate.  Realizing that our feelings and opinions are just that, and that many people differ in their views is essential for us to move forward from this crucible.
  • crucible:  a situation of severe trial in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new, and, in this situation, hopefully stronger. 
  • courage:  we must all forge forward, mustering all the strength we have to get through this trial in order to become stronger.  Humans are a tough breed; we have survived thousands of years of trials, and will survive this one, too. As a species, we are tougher than any virus ever to infect us, and we are tougher than this one, too. 
  • calm:  panic is never a good answer.  Practicing an attitude of calm is always the better answer.
  • control:  determine what you can control, and what you cannot control.  This is a challenge in every facet of life.  Do your best to make your world a better place, and keep moving forward. 
  • choice:  choose optimism.  There is hope for a return to a better world. 

Be good to yourself, and to each other.