For the last few months, we’ve all been talking about one thing - COVID-19. But do you have the vocabulary to talk about it in English? We have some useful vocabulary and expressions to help!


lockdown (n)

A requirement to stay in a specific place, like home


  • The UK entered lockdown in March.
  • The lockdown in Spain was stricter than the one in Sweden.
  • Life has changed a lot since lockdown started.


social distancing (n)

The things you do to reduce social interaction to stop the spread of a virus


  • We have strict social distancing rules, so we should meet on Zoom for now.
  • Can you please respect social distancing and stay 2 metres from me?
  • I don’t think my neighbours care about social distancing. They were having a party last night!


socially-distanced (adj)

Adjective form of social distancing


  • Fancy a socially-distanced beer in the park tonight?
  • Have you heard about socially-distanced weddings? No dancing is allowed!
  • I had a socially-distanced catch-up with some friends on Zoom last night


to ease (v)

to make something less strict or severe


  • They started easing the lockdown in Scotland a few weeks ago.
  • Some people are worried that the USA eased the restrictions too quickly.
  • They’ve eased the social distancing rules in some countries.


to have/get cabin fever (expr)

to feel frustrated or annoyed because of spending too much time indoors


  • I haven’t left the house in 4 days. I’m definitely getting cabin fever!
  • Why are you so anxious? Do you have cabin fever?
  • I’m going to go out and get some fresh air. I’m getting cabin fever.


to self-isolate (v)

to spend time at home without any contact with other people


  • My flatmate tested positive for the virus, so he had to self-isolate.
  • I can do your shopping and leave it at your door if you need to self-isolate.
  • Sorry, I can’t come to work, I have to self-isolate.


contact tracing (n) / contact tracer (n, person)

The process of finding people who may be infected with the virus because of who they have been in contact with


  • Some countries have apps that use Bluetooth to help with contact tracing.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) say contact tracing is critical to control the virus.
  • I got a call from a contact tracer. Apparently, my colleague has the virus and I have to self-isolate.


death toll (n)

The number of people who have died as a result of a specific cause


  • I head the USA has the highest death toll from coronavirus in the world.
  • The global coronavirus death toll is now over half a million.
  • I wonder if the death toll would have been lower if we’d entered lockdown sooner.


furlough (n) / to be furloughed (expr)

Furlough is when your job is on 'pause' during an exceptional time, like the coronavirus crisis. You don't work, but may still get paid.


  • Have you been furloughed or are you still working?
  • I’ve been on furlough for months now. I can’t believe it, I’m starting to miss work!
  • It’s good that the government is extending the furlough scheme for another month.