Advertisement

You Can Now Look COVID-19 Up In The Dictionary After 'Exceptional' Update Amid Pandemic

COVID-19, self-isolate and elbow bump feature in a "significant update" to the Oxford English Dictionary prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The dictionary has added a slate of new words and terms, including social distancing, infodemic and "to flatten the curve", which have come into use during the outbreak.

The dictionary usually publishes four updates a year but breaks this cycle in exceptional circumstances.

Also featured in the list are self-quarantine, shelter in place, social distancing, PPE or personal protective equipment, and WFH or working from home.

COVID-19 is the only neologism, or newly coined word, to appear.

The others are a mixture of words with wider meaning that are now being used more specifically to refer to the pandemic.

However, all those terms saw what the dictionary describes as a "huge increase" in use during 2020.

Coronavirus does not feature as it was first described in 1968 and was included in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2008.

The word infodemic was coined to describe the misinformation surrounding the outbreak.

The dictionary's Fiona McPherson said the significant update came outside the usual publication cycle.

"But these are extraordinary times, and OED lexicographers are in a unique position to track the development of the language we are using and to present the histories of these words," she said.