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Maschere e quarantena: il vocabolario del coronavirus in inglese

Tutti parlano del coronavirus, ma riesci a parlarne anche in inglese? Impariamo il vocabolario base per capire le notizie anche in inglese.

As Coronavirus (officially called COVID-19) continues to dominate the news, it might be useful to look at some of the language to talk about it.

The first is that people contract a virus (= get it). When a disease passes very easily from one person to another, as this one does, we say that it is extremely infectious or highly contagious. People that have it and may pass it to others are known as carriers. Some people seem to be more infectious (= pass on the disease more) than others, and these people are known as super-spreaders.

The first person to get a new disease is known as patient zero. When a patient has signs that they are ill, we say that they show/display symptoms, in this case a fever (= high temperature), cough and respiratory difficulty (= problems with breathing). The period between catching the illness and showing symptoms is the incubation period.

We use the word cases to refer to people who have a disease, e.g. There have been several cases of COVID-19 in the UK. When doctors have done tests and are sure that people have it, we call them confirmed or diagnosed cases. If doctors find that someone has the disease, we say that they test positive for it. If there is an unusually high number, we say that there is a spike in cases, whereas if numbers seem as though they are continuing to fall, we say that they have peaked.

We often talk about the mortality rate of a disease to say what proportion of people die from it. The death toll is the number of people who have died. The start of a disease is called the outbreak. COVID-19 hasn’t yet been classified as a pandemic (= a disease that has spread all over the world), but it has the potential to become one.

Governments have to decide how to control/contain the spread of the virus. Towns and cities may be put/placed on/in lockdown so that nobody can enter or leave them, countries may close their borders (= stop letting people from other countries in) and airlines sometimes suspend flights (= stop flying) to certain places.

People who may have the disease are often put/placed in quarantine (= made to stay somewhere away from other people). Passengers returning from an area with coronavirus may be asked to self-quarantine (= stay away from other people voluntarily). Despite the fact that most experts don’t think they are effective, some countries have seen huge queues for face masks (= covers for your mouth and nose). Meanwhile, scientists are racing to develop a vaccine (= make medicine that will stop people getting the virus).

We hope you find these words and phrases useful – and please stay safe!


Can you pair up the expressions with their definition?

1. to contract a virus

a. to have signs that somebody is ill

2. infectious, contagious

b. the period between catching the illness and showing symptoms

3. to be more infectious

c. the first person to get a new disease

4. patient zero

d. the number of people who have died

5. carrier

e. people who have a disease

6. to show symptoms

f. a disease that has spread all over the world

7. respiratory difficulty

g. likely to spread in a rapid manner

8. incubation period

h. a cover for your mouth and nose

9. case

i. people that have a disease and may pass it to others

10. death toll

j. to get a virus

11. outbreak

k. problems with breathing

12. pandemic

l. to be made to stay somewhere away from other people

13. to be put to quarantine

m. medicine that will stop people getting the virus

14. face mask

n. the start of a disease

15. vaccine

o. to pass on the disease more


1. j. 2. g. 3. o. 4. c. 5. i. 6. a. 7. k. 8. b. 9. e. 10. d. 11. n. 12. f. 13. l. 14. h. 15. m.

to dominate dominare
to contract a virus contrarre un virus
to pass diffondersi
infectious infettivo, contaggioso
highly contagious molto contaggioso
carrier portatore
super spreader super diffusore
patient zero paziente zero
to show/display symptoms mostrare/manifestare sintomi
fever febbre
cough tosse
respiratory difficulty difficoltá respiratorie
breathing respirazione
to catch an illness prendere una malattia
incubation period periodo di incubazione
case caso
confirmed/diagnosed case casi confermati/diagnosticati
to test positive for a diesase diagnosticare una malattia
a spike in cases un picco nei casi
to peak arrivare all’apice, raggiungere il picco
mortality rate tasso di mortalitá
proportion proporzione
death toll numero dei decessi
outbreak epidemia
pandemic pandemia
to have the potential avere la potenza di
to control/contain the spread of the virus controllare/contenere la diffusine del virus
lockdown blocco, isolamento
to be put in/placed on lockdown essere messo in isolamento
to close the borders chiudere/bloccare i confini
to suspend flights sospendere i voli
to put/place in quarantine essere messo in quarantena
self-quarantine auto-isolamento
voluntarily volontariamente
expert esperto
face mask maschera
to race gareggiare/competere (col tempo)
to develop sviluppare
vaccine vaccino


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