COVID-19 Words: Neologisms for Our Brave New World

COVID-19 Words: Neologisms for Our Brave New World

COVID-19 Words: Neologisms for Our Brave New World

By Barbara McClintock, MA, Certified Translator

It has been one year since “patient zero”[1] was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital on January 23, 2020, and became Canada’s first patient with novel coronavirus, later to be named COVID‑19. Various analysts think that post-COVID life will not be the same as before COVID, a shorthand for COVID-19. Some of the legal impacts are temporary, e.g., border traffic and immigration have been reduced and travel is subject to some restrictions. Former Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin, writing in La Presse about the long-term impacts of the pandemic, suggests that the justice system should take the opportunity to adopt technology. She also believes that, after COVID‑19, the justice system should take into consideration the causes underlying legal problems, such as mental illness, homelessness and health issues.[2]

New words

COVID’s wide impact on our health, everyday lives, justice system and economy, and even how we talk or write, has resulted in new terminology, or neologisms. Neologisms are recent terms, words or phrases that are entering common use but have yet to be formally accepted. In English, neologisms are mainly driven by technology, changes in society and major events, such as the pandemic. Consequently, we have seen both the introduction of new words and the familiarization of the general public with existing medical terms related to the pandemic.

You will find a glossary including a few COVID-related expressions below.

COVID-19 Glossary

English                                                                French

Asymptomatic Asymptomatique
Backward contact tracing Recherche des contacts en amont
Bubble Bulle
Chief Public Health Officer Administrateur en chef de la santé publique/ administratrice en chef de la santé publique
Circuit-breaker lockdown Confinement court-circuit[3]
Clusters of infection Foyers d’infection[4]
Community transmission Transmission communautaire; transmission dans la communauté
Contact tracing Recherche des contacts
COVID variant, e.g., “UK variant” Variant de la COVID-19. Par ex., Variant britannique de la COVID-19
Délestage or postponing or cancelling operations

Délestage, as it’s called in Quebec, is the practice of rearranging the resources of the health system to meet a crisis, which can mean shuffling nurses between hospitals according to the patient load or cancelling or postponing procedures deemed relatively low-priority.”[5]

Epidemiology Épidémiologie
Essential worker Travailleur essentiel; travailleuse essentielle
Forward contact tracing Recherche des contacts en aval
Herd immunity Immunité collective
Immunization clinic[6] Clinique de vaccination
Long-hauler Patient(e) qui souffre de symptômes persistants de la COVID-19; patient(e) qui souffre de séquelles de la COVID-19
Outbreak of the disease Éclosion; flambée de cas
Person at risk of more severe disease or outcomes, Personne susceptible de développer une forme grave ou des complications
Private seniors’ residence Résidence pour personnes âgées (RPA)
Quarantine hotel or isolation facility[7] Hôtel désigné pour le séjour en quarantaine; lieu d’isolement
Return to lockdown Reconfinement
Self-isolate [Note: Do not use “confinement” in English in this context.] Auto-isolement
Superspreader Super propagateur
Speaking moistly Def. Speaking and spraying droplets at the same time. Note: Justin Trudeau seems to have invented this expression. Postillonner

©Juriscribe 2021. All rights reserved.

[1] Toronto Star

[2] Beverley McLachlin, “On ne peut plus ignorer la crise de la justice,” La Presse

[3] Radio-Canada

[4] (



[7] CTV