The COVID-19 crisis has drastically altered various aspects of our daily lives, and the English language is not exempt from these changes. The wave of new phrases and medical jargon ushered in during the pandemic have become part of our daily discourse, and to reflect these linguistic trends, the Oxford English Dictionary has expanded due to coronavirus.
As the BBC reports, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is deemed an ultimate reflection of the English language, and any updates to the OED are usually only published quarterly. However, in exceptional circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, special additions may be added outside the regular schedule.
New OED entrants related to the pandemic include the following:
- Elbow bump
- To flatten the curve
- PPE and personal protective equipment
- Self-isolate, self-isolated, self-isolation
- Self-quarantine, self-quarantined
- Shelter in place
- Social distancing
- Social isolation
Many of the recently added words and phrases, such as "self-quarantine" and "elbow bump," have been included to display the new context in which they're now being used. Interestingly, COVID-19 is the only newly coined word to feature on the list, and Coronavirus had already entered the Oxford English Dictionary back in 2008.
With a constant flow of 24-hour news coverage and daily government briefings regarding the virus in recent weeks, these terms have become familiar with a large proportion of the population — and although many date back to the 19th century, these words and phrases have achieved new, and more prevalent usage during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Oxford English Dictionary researchers also discovered that coronavirus-related entrants had been used in similar ways during past health emergencies, including during the 1980s AIDS crisis, as well as the swine flu and SARS ones. However, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, these terms were not deemed common enough to warrant being entered into the OED.