7 New Coronavirus Words...and How to Use Them Correctly

4 min read

Level: Intermediate

The Coronavirus pandemic has led to an eruption of new words in English and other languages.

Coronavirus is everywhere. Literally. As the world gets to grips with this 'new normal', people are finding new ways of talking about how it's affecting our daily lives. Here are seven coronavirus terms that have entered everyday vocabulary in the UK...

1. social distancing (n.)

Since the start of the outbreak, governments have been urging people to keep a safe distance between themselves and others. This concept is known as social distancing. It can be also be used as an adjective: 'socially distanced'. For example, in the UK you're allowed to meet a friend for a socially-distanced walk or drink outdoors.

2. non-essential (adj.)

Another way governments have tried tackling the problem is by prohibiting people from doing 'non-essential' activities. This means they're not necessary to live, e.g. people are being told to stay home and are discouraged from travelling unless it's absolutely necessary. In the UK, the only 'essential' shops that were allowed to stay open at the height of the pandemic were those selling food, other important household items and medicine.

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3. shielding (n.)

When the pandemic was at its worst, many vulnerable people such as the elderly and those with severe medical conditions, were told to 'shield'. This means they were strongly advised to stay indoors at all times to protect themselves. In the UK, anyone who was shielding was offered support to obtain groceries and medicine, without having to leave their house and put themselves at risk.

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4. self-isolate (v.)

In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, people travelling abroad have been told to self-isolate when they arrive at their destination and return. This means going straight from the airport to their accommodation, and staying there without any contact with others for a certain period of time. This is called 'self-isolation'. So you can say, 'There's a ten-day self-isolation period when we get back from our trip' or 'We need to self-isolate for ten days when we arrive'.

5. Covidiots (n.)

Of course, this doesn't mean that everyone's been following government regulations. And these so-called rule-breakers (who have been having huge parties and refusing to wear face masks) have been given a new name...Covidiots. Covid + idiots. Appropriate, right?

6. furlough (n.)

Unfortunately, due to restrictions many businesses have had to close, leaving many people jobless. So the UK government started a 'furlough scheme'. Businesses are given financial aid to pay their employees' salaries, even when they're not able to work. A worker in this situation is 'on furlough' or 'furloughed', e.g.'James was on furlough last year'.

7. Zoomwear (n.)

Not everyone has been furloughed though. Some workers have been fortunate enough to work from home and have meetings online instead of in-person. Zoom's been the most popular platform for this, leading to the new term 'Zoomwear'...wearing smart clothes from the waist up (the part that's visible on camera!) and something casual, like shorts (or pyjamas!) from the waist down.

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Bonus word: lockdown (n.)

Another strategy some governments have used is imposing lockdowns. This means people aren't allowed to leave their homes unless it's for essential purposes, like food shopping or medical emergencies. And anyone caught breaking the rules could be fined. Unlike the other words on this list, which are specific to this pandemic, this word isn't new. But it's become much more common recently. 'Lockdown' is often used in other contexts. If there were a dangerous situation in a school or prison, a lockdown might be imposed. The UK government announced several lockdowns last year, after tentatively following the example of other European countries. Read about what people have been doing in lockdown.

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How many of these words did you already know? There are more coronavirus words to learn if you're interested! Check out this YouTube Live lesson where a Britcent tutor explains 'Coronaspeak' or scroll down to watch it here. You could even sign up to Britcent and talk to a native speaker about your experiences in a one-to-one class!

Vocabulary takeaway

come/get to grips with something

tackle something

at the height of something



Coronaspeak? Trending English Words You NEED to Know! | Live English Class with BRITCENT

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Please note: These blog posts are written in informal, conversational English.

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