physical distancing


: the tendency to avoid close contact with others
Body language exposes our relationship to others. There is the confident demeanor of the self-assured, the plodding gait of the downhearted and the physical distancing that characterizes fear.Marcia Manna
… JFK was notable for his physical distancing—part of his immense, glamorous reserve. He hated crowds—of course, with good reason—while expertly playing them like a grand piano.Robert Whitcomb
specifically, medical : the practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical space between oneself and other people or of avoiding direct contact with people or objects in public places during the outbreak of a contagious disease in order to minimize exposure and reduce the transmission of infection : social distancing
The main thing that we can all do, is what is called social distancing. I like to use the phrase 'physical distancing.' … Now you're going to be spending much more time in your house, spending time away from people … to limit transmission of the COVID virus. Physical distancing takes away the idea we can still talk to loved ones … Adam Rosh
The WHO added that they were now using the term "physical distancing" rather than "social distancing" to describe the importance of maintaining space between people in order to avoid the spread of the virus. Manon Dark
Additionally, Kroger will begin implementing new physical distancing measures to help enhance customer and associate safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting Tuesday, Kroger stores are limiting customers to 50% of building code capacity.

Examples of physical distancing in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Despite the absence of stringent regulations, Swedes opted to cancel events like birthday parties, adopted remote working, and practiced physical distancing. Lars Jonung, National Review, 21 Sep. 2023 The district relies on other mitigation strategies, such as physical distancing. Karina Elwood, Washington Post, 7 Sep. 2023 This includes a requirement for mask-wearing by students and employees, physical distancing, contact tracing, and other significant efforts to reduce the spread of Covid-19 among the population on the Atlanta campus. Michael King, CBS News, 22 Aug. 2023 Meanwhile, people in Singapore and Taiwan voluntarily abided by rules about physical distancing, the wearing of masks, and not congregating in large numbers. Michele Gelfand, Foreign Affairs, 22 June 2021 In later years many personal and societal changes—such as moving out of state to be closer to family members, switching jobs or coping with physical distancing from loved ones—make learning new skills necessary to adapt and succeed. Rachel Wu, Scientific American, 29 June 2023 Safe Outdoor Spaces opened in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which complicated communal shelter settings as physical distancing and other health protocols became concerns. The Salt Lake Tribune, 10 Dec. 2022 Social isolation, physical distancing, increased time at home, changes in healthcare access, and diminished security and safety could have increased access to firearms in the home for children. Kyla Russell, CNN, 30 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'physical distancing.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1965, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of physical distancing was in 1965

Dictionary Entries Near physical distancing

Cite this Entry

“Physical distancing.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

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