Even if the world doesn’t know all the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and even if we don’t know when we can stop social distancing and get back to our normal routines, we have learned during the past few months a number of new phrases we won’t soon forget.
On April 22, it was made official by Dictionary.com as a number of words and phrases were added to the online cultural zeitgeist.
Included among the new entries are “novel coronavirus,” “shelter in place,” “germaphobe,” and the slang term “rona.”
Dictionary.com has also added new definitions to already established words and phrases. That includes “asymptomatic” (of a person with a disease or other medical condition experiencing no symptoms or evidence of illness or abnormality), “novel” (not previously detected or reported); and “social distancing” (a safe or appropriate distance or amount of space between two people or between people in a group. (verb) to maintain a safe or appropriate distance from other people, especially to slow the spread of a contagious illness or disease. (verb) to place or keep at a safe or appropriate distance from other people.).
According to Slate, the term “social distancing” has been around since 1824, so it was probably due for an update.
“One of the primary functions of language is to express identity, and there is something communal about the new vocabulary we are all acquiring during this crisis,” Dictionary.com lexicographer Heather Bonikowski said in a statement. “When we use these new COVID-19 words with each other, we are showing our membership in a group, almost as an act of solidarity—a way to say we’re all in this together.”
According to the site, “Dictionary.com uses a number of tools to determine which words are widely used and should earn a place in the online dictionary. Lexicographers review and discover new words in everything from academic journals, pop culture sources, and user suggestions, while analyzing its search data and behavior to identify user interest and trends.”