Coronavirus in the Italian Language  

Apr 28, 2020

A guest post by Valeria Biancalani

At the forefront of everyone’s mind at the moment is the coronavirus, which  has caused a devastating pandemic throughout the world. Over the past  few months,  it has become the main topic of conversation for most people in most places.

If you are currently studying Italian and want to be able to converse with Italian speakers about the coronavirus, you will need to learn some new and related vocabulary.

For native English speakers, the good news is that there are many similar-sounding Italian words pertaining to this subject. “The coronavirus” is simply “il coronavirus.” Other easily recognizable words are “pandemic” and “pandemia,”  “quarantine” and “quarantena,”  “bacteria” and “batteri,” and “vaccine” and “vaccino.” However, be  cautious, since you may not fully understand the Italian meaning of certain terms.  Take, for instance,  the word “tamponi.” English speakers immediately think of tampons, but in Italian tamponi translates as “swab tests.”

Because English is a universal language, Italians often incorporate English words and phrases into their everyday conversations. When speaking about the coronavirus pandemic, they have been using English words such as “lockdown” (the direct translation is “blocco”) and “smart working” (“telelavoro“).   They say “flash mob” to refer to all the  acts and performances they have organized from their balconies to raise morale and cheer for medical workers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

A very useful Italian phrase to add to your coronavirus vocabulary is “Io resto a casa” which means “I stay at home.”  #iorestoacasa has become a popular hashtag.  And you’ll also see another saying on signs and banners throughout Italy:  Andrà tutto bene.”  Everything will be okay.

Here are more handy Italian words and phrases to learn and memorize:

Contagio —  Infection

Distanziamento sociale —  Social distancing

Emergenza sanitaria — Public health emergency

Febbre — Fever

Guanti — Gloves

Isolamento — Isolation

Mascherine — Face masks

Paziente zero — Patient zero

Polmoni — Lungs

Tasso di mortalità — Mortality rate

Terapia intensiva — Intensive care

Tossire — To cough

Appiattire la curva — Flatten the curve

Diventare immune –To become immune

Raggiungere il picco — Reach the peak

Valeria Biancalani of Rome is the founder of BlaBlaLang and Parlando Italiano, two Italian schools that offer online Italian courses with native and qualified Italian tutors to students from all over the world.

Dianne Hales is the author of  LA PASSIONE: How Italy Seduced the World, LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language and MONA LISA: A Life Discovered. For more information, visit

The London-based Corona Crisis Collective, which is bringing together an international array of contributors, asked me to write and record a tribute to Leonardo Da Vinci on the occasion of his April birthday. You can watch the video on YouTube.



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