COVID-19 or the coronavirus?

Mar 19, 2020

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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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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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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