Oxford dictionary revised to record impact of Covid-19

Oxford dictionary revised to record impact of Covid-19

With terms such as WFH, social distancing and self-isolation now in common parlance, the Oxford English Dictionary has made an extraordinary update to include Covid-19 and words related to the pandemic in its definitive record of the English language, The Guardian reported.

The dictionary’s executive editor Bernadette Paton said that it was “a rare experience for lexicographers to observe an exponential rise in usage of a single word in a very short period of time, and for that word to come overwhelmingly to dominate global discourse". 

Covid-19 has done that, and has thus been added as a new entry in the OED, where it is described as "an acute respiratory illness in humans caused by a coronavirus, which is capable of producing severe symptoms and death, esp. in the elderly and others with underlying health conditions".

The OED’s analysis of more than 8bn words of online news stories found that coronavirus and Covid-19, a shortening of coronavirus disease 2019, are now dominating global discourse. 

While back in December, words such as Brexit, impeachment and climate dominated news, by January, coronavirus was seeing significant use alongside current affairs terms such as bushfire, koala, Iraqi, locust and assassination. 

By March every single word in the OED’s top 20 list of keywords – terms used significantly more frequently that month – was related to coronavirus.