Brush Up on Your Vocabulary with the...

Brush Up on Your Vocabulary with the COVID-19 Jargon

by Rochelle C. Pangilinan
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

We all know that COVID-19 has changed our lives. While it has obviously turned things upside down, there’s no excuse not to  educate one’s self about the pandemic and delve deep into facts, not tall tales. It’s also a helpful activity to enrich our vocabulary and adapt it to what’s going on in the world now. Below is a look at COVID-19-related lingo that has inched their way into our daily vocabulary.


The World Health Organization (WHO) defines an epidemic as an occurrence of health-related events in a specific region that’s beyond normal in terms of the number of cases. Variables like the surrounding population, previous experience, exposure, time and location are considered for the WHO to qualify an illness as an epidemic.


A few months from now after we all this is over and done with, asking “Where were you on March 11 when Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General , declared COVID-19 as a pandemic?” That was the day that changed everything. A pandemic is described  as a worldwide spread of a new disease, and thus referring to this novel coronavirus 19 as a global pandemic is redundant.


China, Italy and France were the first countries to know this jargon through personal experience. It refers to the government-imposed ban on any movement inside the country and the closing of all nonessential businesses.


While not as commonly used as lockdown, shelter-in-place has found its way into our daily vocabulary when California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a shelter-in-place, or stay-at-home, order on March 19, which mandated social distancing and enforced home isolation.

Flattening the curve

This is certainly a term we look forward to hearing when we watch the news. Flattening the curve refers to a collective action to decrease or slow down the number of new cases. Flattening the curve measures include social distancing and self-isolation.


Once a virus spreads quickly, the focus isn’t how to get rid of it completely, it shifts to how to lessen its severity and slow down its spread. Mitigation measures include testing people displaying minor to major symptoms and identifying their contacts if the results are positive.

Essential vs. Nonessential businesses and services

In Canada, the responsibility of categorizing what would be essential businesses and services vs. non-essential fell primarily on provincial or territorial governments. Essential refers to businesses and services that need to operate despite the impositions on quarantine and physical distancing because we can’t do without them. These include health care, grocery and supermarkets, transportation, sanitation, social services, courier and mail, banks, and others. Non-essential are those we can do without for the meantime like salons, theaters, gyms, museums, casinos, sports venues and others.

Nonessential Travel

Non-essential travel is any domestic or international travel that is recreational or personal in nature, such as heading to Buffalo, NY for shopping.


Since COVID-19 symptoms manifest any time between 1 day to 14 days, people who have come to contact with those who contracted the virus are recommended to self-quarantine for at least 14 days to see whether or not they will become ill and contagious. Self-quarantining involves staying at home at all times, not accepting any visitors, practicing social distancing measures in your household and outside, and not sharing personal things like utensils.


Self-isolation is a term used when someone has been confirmed to have COVID-19 and they have to stay away from the uninfected.

Social Distancing

Social distancing, which is probably the favourite term that has come out of COVID-19 times, refers to the conscious decision to create ample physical space (at least 6 feet) between people to  avoid spreading illnesses. Social distancing can sometimes be referred to as physical distancing.





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