Merriam-Webster adds new coronavirus-related words, updates definitions amid pandemic

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Millions of Americans are physically distancing in public, working from home, and ordering contactless food delivery amid the coronavirus pandemic — and it has inspired Merriam-Webster to update its treasure trove of words with must-know terms essential for critical conversations on COVID-19.

Over 535 new words and meanings were added to the tome's digital dictionary on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Merriam-Webster told Fox News. The latest revisions range from the technical to the conversational, to better inform and reflect daily dialogue during the global health crisis.

Over 535 new words and terms, such as "physical distancing," were added to the glossary’s digital dictionary on April 29.

Over 535 new words and terms, such as "physical distancing," were added to the glossary’s digital dictionary on April 29. (Merriam-Webster)

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“Usually, it takes at least several years for new words to become dictionary entries — they must be used by many people and in a variety of publications over time. This update includes plenty of terms that follow this pattern,” Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster, said in a statement.

Merriam-Webster’s latest lingo includes the addition of the term WFH, an abbreviation for “work from home,” which has become a new reality for many.

Merriam-Webster’s latest lingo includes the addition of the term WFH, an abbreviation for “work from home,” which has become a new reality for many. (Merriam-Webster)

“But today, because vocabulary connected to the pandemic is both essential and frequently heard, we have also added many words that most of us had never encountered until just weeks ago.”

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Following a special update in March on the various names for the viral disease, Merriam-Webster’s latest lingo includes the addition of the term WFH, an abbreviation for “work from home. Physical distancing, meanwhile, has been listed as medically synonymous with social distancing and further defined as “the practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical space between oneself and other people… during the outbreak of a contagious disease in order to minimize exposure and reduce the transmission of infection.”

“But today, because vocabulary connected to the pandemic is both essential and frequently heard, we have also added many words that most of us had never encountered until just weeks ago," said Sokolowski.

“But today, because vocabulary connected to the pandemic is both essential and frequently heard, we have also added many words that most of us had never encountered until just weeks ago," said Sokolowski. (Merriam-Webster)

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Specialized medical phrases that have become part of the national vocabulary during the outbreak, such as epidemic curve, immune surveillance, and herd immunity, have also been added. Definitions for viral replication inhibitors remdesivir and favipiravir, as well as the drug hydroxychloroquine, were also explained.

Logophiles hungry for more can read up on Dictionary.com's similar, recent update on coronavirus-related words, expanded with descriptions for slang words like “rona,” as well as trending terms “hunker down” and “shelter in place.”

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