During the pandemic, the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary started offering special updates of older definitions like ‘elbow bump’ and ‘self-isolate’ to reflect the new lexicon of the coronavirus.

To University of Memphis psychologist Roger J. Kreuz, these changes give us a glimpse into how language can quickly change in the face of unprecedented social and economic disruption. But being officially enshrined in the Oxford English Dictionary is no small feat, and time will tell whether some new words, like ‘quarantini’ and ‘zoombombing,’ have staying power.

Also today:

Nick Lehr

Arts + Culture Editor

The coronavirus forced the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary to break with tradition. Illustration by Anurag Papolu/The Conversation; dictionary photo by Spauln via Getty Images and model of COVID-19 by fpm/iStock via Getty Images

How COVID-19 is changing the English language

Roger J. Kreuz, University of Memphis

Updates to the Oxford English Dictionary provide a fascinating glimpse into how language changes in the face of rapid and unprecedented social and economic disruption.

Environment + Energy

Health + Medicine

Ethics + Religion

Science + Technology

  • Ancient microbial life used arsenic to thrive in a world without oxygen

    Pieter Visscher, University of Connecticut; Brendan Paul Burns, UNSW; Kimberley L Gallagher, Quinnipiac University

    How ancient microbes survived in a world without oxygen has been a mystery. Scientists discovered a living microbial mat that uses arsenic instead of oxygen for photosynthesis and respiration.

Politics/Election '20

  • Votes cast in November will shape Congress through 2030

    Robin Best, Binghamton University, State University of New York; Steve Lem, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

    When voters in November pick among the candidates for state legislatures, they are choosing the people who will make the new electoral maps for congressional elections.

  • If Obamacare goes away, here are eight ways your life will be affected

    Simon F. Haeder, Pennsylvania State University

    The Affordable Care Act has a date with the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 10. In the wake of Justice Ginsburg's death, the health car law hangs in the balance of a court with a four-four split.


  • Not letting students choose their roommates can make college a drag

    Kevin Fosnacht, Indiana University; Polly Graham, Indiana University; Robert Gonyea, Indiana University

    To create a less worrisome environment for students of color, colleges should let them to choose their own roommates, says a researcher who looked at student housing policies.

  • Teaching kids to read during the coronavirus pandemic: 5 questions answered

    Keisha McIntosh Allen, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Kindel Turner Nash, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

    If families embrace reading as fun and routine and teachers work more closely than before with the families of their students, it's possible that remote learning won't be a huge obstacle to literacy.

From our international editions