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Do you speak corona? Test your knowledge of the 2020 pandemic slang

The COVID-19 epidemic has shaped 2020, changing the world as we know it. It has also changed the way we speak since language is one of the first phenomena to react to global crises. Aiming at describing the effects the coronavirus has had on our lives, the pandemic parlance is an everyday slang that’s emerged during a time of isolation and personal struggle. We’ve all shared similar experiences, albeit separated by lockdowns, travel limitations and rules of social distancing. Besides, the novel language has proven to be a great coping mechanism: Robert Lawson, a sociolinguist at Birmingham City University, says “if you can name it, you can talk about it; and if you can talk about it, then it can help people cope and get a handle on really difficult situations”.

Social networks which keep us connected helped the lingo spread so much so that Merriam-Webster made an unscheduled update to the dictionary in March. At the same time, the venerable Oxford English Dictionary has issued two special updates to add words associated with the disease and the resulting global response. Printed and online media issued glossaries of terms that once fell within the medical and epidemiological realm but suddenly came into wide use and at first, left the readers guessing.

The COVID-19 related slang we’re talking about is mostly self-explanatory. The newly-coined lexical units are creations of anxious humour, demonstrating irreverence in the face of adversity.

Words are getting shortened (as in “sanny” for hand sanitiser or “iso” for isolation), notions abbreviated (like BCV for “before coronavirus” and WFH “working from home”). Compounds are also aplenty, like, for instance, “corona dissident” (a person in denial of the pandemic’s gravity) and “zoom-bombing” (intruding into one’s video conference). But portmanteaux are the most abundant when it comes to new coinages: according to the British linguist Tony Thorne, blended expressions formed by combining two existing words, such as “covidivorce” (a divorce brought about by co-isolating during the times of covid) or “coronials” (a name for a new generation born of the predicted 2020 baby boom) account for up to 40 percent of COVID-related jargon.

Photo by Edwin Hooper / via Unsplash

These colourful and creative expressions have emerged to fill the gaps in the official narrative. Besides, humour is often the only means of coming to terms with anxiety and discomfort of the stressful aspects of life. So, here’s a concise glossary of the most widely used “coronaspeak” terms for you to make sure your pandemic parlance is up to scratch.


Once used to describe the day spent hungover, “blursday” is used to denote periods when many days bleed into each other. During lockdown, “blursdays” are particularly common. One of Urban Dictionary’s definitions for “blursday” is “When you’ve been sheltering in place for so long because of a global pandemic you have no idea what day it is as they all blur together”.


A staycation (stay-at-home vacation) forced by the pandemic, or a cheap vacation you can afford on a budget to a not so far away destination you can get to by car. Alternatively, when school has been moved online, and students started to learn from home, some of them would refer to the self-isolation period as a “coronacation”.


The sense of doom, surrounding the coronavirus pandemic which, coupled with other disasters, like armed conflicts, climate change, economic instability etc., is viewed by some as a sequence of events leading to the apocalypse. Most people, however, use it humorously, since despite its gravity the current pandemic is unlikely to lead to the end of the world.


Quarantining at home during COVID-19 has resulted in less movement and more snacking, hence the proverbial 10 pounds (or is some cases more) of extra weight many have gained during the lockdown months of the pandemic. See also the German “Coronaspeck” referring to weight gained during the coronavirus pandemic from emotional eating.

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Someone who is behaving stupidly or irresponsibly as the epidemic spreads, refusing to wear a mask, ignoring “social distancing,” and still trying to continue their life as usual. This term has also been used to refer to those hoarding groceries and toilet paper and spreading conspiracy theories about the virus.


COVID-19 quarantine was a trial for many couples whose relationships didn’t stand the test of extended isolation with the loved ones. “Covidivorce” is a divorce filed as a result of a couple’s experience during the pandemic. After lockdowns ended in China, local media, for instance, reported that divorce applications were overwhelming officials in two provinces, Sichuan and Shanxi.


According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “doomscrolling” (or “doomsurfing”) is “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back”.

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Mask + acne = maskne. Pesky zits one gets on their cheeks and jawline from wearing a mask 24/7.


Same as coronavirus, only contracted by covidiots.


“Quaranteam” is a bubble of people who create a tight-knit social circle that doesn’t interact with others outside their group. It is also used to describe those who support you during a quarantine period.


With more time spent at home in leisurewear during quarantine, people’s relationship with alcohol has become more liberal. The phenomenon of day-drinking that used to be frowned upon is no longer stigmatised when used as a coping mechanism. Fixing oneself a “quarantini” (a quarantine inspired martini) at 10 am on a Tuesday is viewed as an act of self-care rather than self-destruction.

Photo by Nick Fewings / via Unsplash


The clothing selected for display above the waist only during video-conferences and other virtual events.


“Zoom-bombing” (or “zoom-raiding”) is what happens when internet trolls hack a Zoom video meeting to disrupt it with obscene or violent materials. “Zoom-bombing” is based on “photobombing”, when people ruin a photograph by appearing in the image without the photographer’s knowledge, often in some dramatic or comical way.


Zumping is an act of dumping someone over zoom – be it a boyfriend or an employee. Better than a post-it note, but not nearly as civil as an actual face-to-face conversation, the luxury of which we may not have in the days of corona.