Words We're Watching

Words We're Watching: 'Coronial'

A noun/adjective for the times (and for the next generation)

baby girl wearing mask in grocery store

Or maybe 'COVID kid' will catch on. We'll see.

In Latin, corōna is the name for a garland worn on the head as a mark of honor or emblem of majesty as well as for the top part of an entablature or a halo around a celestial body. The word was originally borrowed into English as corona in the 16th century for an entabulature's, or cornice's, topper. In the 1960s, virologists adopted the word as the name for a virus having spiky, crown-like projections as seen under microscope: the coronavirus. On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially announced the disease that spread into a pandemic as the coronavirus disease 2019, which is nicknamed COVID-19 (the "CO" is from corona, "VI" from virus, "D" from disease, and "19" from the year of onset, 2019).

'Coronials': The Coronavirus Generation

When a pandemic strikes, things drastically change and, in turn, new words are born to define and communicate the changes and their repercussions. In the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, we published a guide to coronavirus-related words, and we are considering adding another to the list: coronial. The word was coined as a name for a person conceived or born during the pandemic.

The Coronials will include all those born in December of 2020, and, unless the pandemic ends quickly, the early months of 2021.
— Doctor Edmund Fitzgerald, quoted in The Berkeleyside, 1 Apr. 2020

Meanwhile a colleague acquaints me with reports that the generation of children conceived during the pandemic are likely to be called Coronials and then, later, the Quaranteens.
— Ian Warden, The Canberra (Australia) Times, 22 Aug. 2020

If coronial catches on, it could become the fitting adjective to describe the generation born (literally or perhaps figuratively) during the pandemic. In a September 10, 2020, address, American musician Bruce Springsteen used the term "Coronial Generation" when speaking to the 2024 class of Boston College:

We are currently in the midst of an historic experience. On our watch, they shut down the United States of America and the world for the past half year. You are the first Coronial Generation. You are already wizened by this experience, to appreciate the underappreciated. Sporting events. Getting together with your friends. Concerts. Remember those? Well, we will soon look to you for answers for a safer and better world.

Perhaps hearing it from the Boss will encourage others, especially demographers and sociologists, to add it to their vocabulary.

A related, extended term is COVID kid. A Terre Haute, Indiana, firefighter gave COVID kid news publicity with his reported social media statement. After contracting the coronavirus, he wrote, "Unfortunately, I’ve been indoctrinated into a special club. ... I am now a COVID Kid."

We welcome the noun and adjective coronial to our dictionary as well as COVID kid. As recorders of the English language, we embrace the terms but, for now, we must only acknowledge their candidacy for entry with an elbow bump.

Words We're Watching talks about words we are increasingly seeing in use but that have not yet met our criteria for entry.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!