COVID-19, coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2…what does it all mean, and what does COVID stand for? You may have heard any one of these three names while listening to the news or reading the latest statistics, which can be a little perplexing. If you’re trying to figure out the difference between these three names, the answer is pretty simple: There isn’t one. They all refer to the same virus that’s kept us in our houses for the past eight months.

What Does COVID Stand For?

“COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by the SARS-CoV2 virus,” according to Dr. Sophie Vergnaud, MD, a medical expert from GoodRx. She attests that COVID-19 is actually an acronym that was created by the World Health Organization (WHO)

The organization simply abbreviated the phrase that was most common when referring to the virus, “coronavirus disease of 2019.” The CO, VI, and DI within that phrase were brought together to create COVID, then 19 was added at the end to signify the year.

The WHO announced the name of this virus in a press release on February 11, 2019. However, when COVID-19 first began in Wuhan, China, it was originally referred to as the “2019 novel coronavirus,” which was abbreviated to 2019-nCoV.

When the virus made it clear that it was traveling around the globe and sticking around for a while, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses renamed it “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.” This long-winded name was then abbreviated to SARS-CoV-2, since the virus is a distant relative to the SARS outbreak that occurred in 2002, which is also a coronavirus. 

WHO Gave the Virus a Nickname So It’s Easier to Say

WHO gave the virus its COVID-19 nickname to make it easier for the general public and media to speak about the virus. Now that we’ve gotten familiar with the virus over these past seven months, we’ll hear it referred to as COVID-19 or simply as “coronavirus.” 

However, simply referring to it as “coronavirus” isn’t necessarily accurate since there are several types of coronaviruses, including SARS. But don’t let that stop you. Since COVID-19 is the only coronavirus that’s stopped the entire world in its tracks, it’s safe to say anyone will know which virus you’re talking about if you use the term “coronavirus.” 

But where did this term come from? “Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word corona, meaning “crown” or “halo,” because they have “crown-like spikes on their surface,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Whether you call it the coronavirus, COVID-19, or refer to it by its scientific name, SARS-CoV-2, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. To keep yourself and your loved ones safe from this virus, follow all federal and local health guidelines, wash your hands frequently, and continue social distancing. So make sure you use precautions, and also don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.


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