For the past year, the coronavirus pandemic has pretty much taken over our lives. The whole world has changed to try to keep the virus from spreading  (going to more people). And with that change comes a whole new list of vocabulary that we now use in our day-to-day lives. Last week, we covered some coronavirus pandemic vocabulary, which you can find here in case (if) you missed it. Because the coronavirus is a hot (popular) topic these days, we decided to cover even more coronavirus pandemic vocabulary this week.

Here is some of the coronavirus pandemic vocabulary that we are asked about most, along with definitions and examples. If you’ve been unsure of how to talk about the pandemic with family or coworkers in English, now is the time to learn!

To spread

For the past year, governments around the world have put people into lockdown to keep the coronavirus from spreading. To spread is the word we use to talk about something moving across a large area. The spread of the coronavirus in early 2020 is what caused us to go into lockdown in order to keep us all safe: the virus had moved to too many countries and too many people were at risk (in danger).

For example:

  • The illness spread throughout the community, so people had to protect themselves.
  • How far has the smoke from the fire spread? Can you see it in your town?


Transmission is a coronavirus pandemic vocabulary word that is very similar to spread. You may have heard about the transmission of the virus on the news. When someone talks about the transmission of the virus, they mean how it moves from person to person. For the coronavirus, transmission occurs through coughing or sneezing. But other illnesses are spread in different ways.

For example:

  • Some illnesses are very hard to catch, but some are very easy to catch. It depends on how the disease is transmitted: whether through coughing or some other way.
  • We’re very hopeful about the vaccine! It should lower the transmission of the virus between people.


Have you been tested for COVID-19? If you were, your doctor used a swab during your test. A swab is used by doctors to take samples (small parts, a test) during a medical test. A swab looks sort of like a long Q-tip, or a long, thin stick with some cotton on the end. To swab can also be a verb, and it is the act of using a swab to collect a sample.

For example:

  • There’s no need to be afraid of this test. All I’m going to do is rub this swab inside your cheek to collect some of your saliva (spit, water in your mouth).
  • At the crime scene, the police swabbed the area for DNA evidence. They tried to collect as much as they could for testing.


Explaining what antibodies are can be pretty scientific, but I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible. When you get sick, your body produces antibodies to help fight the illness. They are essential (necessary) to fighting off an illness. They’re part of your natural response to being sick, and are what helps get rid of your illness. Antibodies have been in the news, since doctors can test for antibodies to see if you have been sick with a disease, like COVID-19, in the past.

For example:

  • I didn’t have any symptoms of the disease, but my doctor did an antibody test anyway to see if I had had it already.
  • You’ll be feeling better in no time (soon)! Your body is busy making antibodies to fight your cold, so make sure to get plenty of sleep and to drink lots of fluids.

Essential workers

Do you know someone who is an essential worker? This is definitely a new coronavirus pandemic vocabulary word for many of us! Essential workers are people whose jobs are needed to keep our society (city, us!) running smoothly. An essential worker can be a postman, a grocery store worker, a doctor, or government employee. Essential workers have kept us going over the past year, so we should be very grateful (thankful) for them!

For example:

  • At the beginning of the pandemic, my neighbors clapped every night at 9pm to show appreciation for all the essential workers.
  • All of the essential workers, from grocery store employees to delivery people to healthcare workers, have supported all of us over the past year.


If you have been around someone who was sick with COVID-19, you have probably been exposed to the virus. Exposure is when you are not protected from something. It can be hard to tell if you have been exposed to an illness, especially if you can’t tell if someone is sick. Part of the reason we have to wear masks right now is to limit (restrict, keep low) our exposure to the disease.

For example:

  • The coronavirus app I have installed on my phone said that I had two exposures to someone with the virus yesterday. I’m going to go get tested to make sure I don’t have it!
  • Because it was so rainy, the hiker looked for somewhere to camp that wasn’t exposed to the wind and rain. She wanted to find somewhere like a cave to camp in for the night.


Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have had to deal with (put up with, live with) many different restrictions recently. A restriction is a limitation or a rule put in place to control something. While the different corona restrictions can be frustrating, such as not being allowed to meet people, go to restaurants, or go to the movies, they have been put in place to keep the virus from spreading.

For example:

  • I can’t wait until they lift (get rid of) the restrictions and I can hug all of my friends!
  • The school put restrictions in place about who can enter the building during school time. This is to stop random people from entering while children are in class.


The word measure has many different meanings (definitions) in English. However, we’ll only be looking at measure in the context (situation) of the coronavirus pandemic today. Measures are actions, rules, or restrictions that are used to control the spread of the coronavirus. Some examples of different measures are limited travel, limited number of people meeting in one space, curfews, or lots of testing. Many governments have been using a few different measures to keep the virus under control.

For example:

  • The government is going to try some new measures this week to prevent the spread of the virus. Let’s hope it works!
  • In Hamburg, the measures used by the government are different than measures used in other cities. That’s because the spread of the virus is different in Hamburg than in other places.


An easing of restrictions is the thing we’re all looking forward to! Easing means to make something less strict. When restrictions are eased, it means that we can do more and more things, and that the virus is going away. Personally, I can’t wait for an easing of travel restrictions so I can visit family and friends!

For example:

  • There was an easing of restrictions in the summer, but they had to use stricter measures in the fall again when the virus started spreading more.
  • Some places have already experienced an easing of restrictions, and people can go to restaurants, meet friends, and go to concerts again!

Have you seen any of this coronavirus pandemic vocabulary around? What have you had to use? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Internet Vocabulary You Should KnowBar Vocabulary in English5 Podcasts to Listen to If You Want to Improve Your English, or this Pregnancy Vocabulary in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and has really improved her coronavirus pandemic vocabulary since January 2020.

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