Origin and usage
The noun coronavirus was first used in print in 1968 in a description in the journal ‘Nature’ of this class of previously unrecognized viruses. They get their name from their resemblance to the sun’s corona when viewed in an electron microscope. Corona comes from a Latin word that means ‘crown’.
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause illness in humans and animals, whose seriousness ranges from that of the common cold to potentially deadly versions such as SARS, MERS and the new virus that is causing alarm around the world. The WHO has named the disease caused by the new form of the virus COVID-19 but the more familiar – if less accurate – term coronavirus is still being widely used. This is reflected in the numbers returned by an online search carried out this week: while coronavirus returns 2.5 billion hits, COVID-19 stands at under 300,000,000, although this figure will undoubtedly rise. While coronavirus, originally submitted to the crowdsourced Open Dictionary in 2013, has since been promoted to full entry status in Macmillan Dictionary, only time will tell whether COVID-19 warrants a similar promotion.
“MERS is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.”
“Human coronaviruses may cause the common cold or severe respiratory illness.”
bacteria, microorganism, retrovirus, virus