Oxford Dictionary Revised to Record Linguistic Impact of COVID-19

The Oxford English Dictionary has added new keywords used all through April following the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

Oxford Dictionary Revised to Record Linguistic Impact of COVID-19
Oxford Dictionary Revised to Record Linguistic Impact of COVID-19

The update were also made in the dictionary’s sub-entries and unrevised entries.

According to a report by Punch, the newly-added words are COVID-19, infodemic, R0, self-isolate, self-isolated, self-isolating, self-isolation, self-quarantine, self-quarantined, shelter in place, social distancing, and social isolation.

The dictionary also added “to flatten the curve” in its new entries.

“PPE” and “social recession” were updated in the dictionary’s sub-entries while “elbow bump” and “WFH” – working (or work) from home – were included in its unrevised entries.

In a post on its blog, OED also listed 20 keywords searched during the coronavirus pandemic – January – March.

In January and February, some of the keywords related to coronavirus; others referred to other world events such as the Australian bushfires, the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, Donald Trump’s impeachment and acquittal, the Democratic caucuses, locust swarms in East Africa, investigations into the Astros sign-stealing scandal, and so on.

In March, however, every one of the top twenty keywords was in some way related to coronavirus.

In January, the words mainly relate to naming and describing the virus: coronavirus, SARS, virus, human-to-human, respiratory, and flu-like.

By March the keywords reflect the social impact of the virus, and issues surrounding the medical response.

Among the words listed are social distancing, self-isolation, and self-quarantine, lockdown, non-essential (as in non-essential travel), and postpone are all especially frequent, as are PPE and ventilator.

Others are COVID-19, pandemic, distancing, coronavirus, self-isolate, sanitiser, quarantine, virus, outbreak, corona, postpone, disinfect, and isolation.

OED Executive Editor, Bernadette Paton, said some of the words were generated through news and social media. He said, “Some of the terms with which we have become so familiar over the past few weeks through the news, social media, and government briefings and edicts have been around for years (many date from the nineteenth century), but they have achieved new and much wider usage to describe the situation in which we currently find ourselves.”

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