10 Spanish words and phrases we've learned during the corona crisis

Esme Fox
Esme Fox - [email protected]
10 Spanish words and phrases we've learned during the corona crisis
Translations. Photo: CoxinhaFotos/Pixabay

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there are many words we now use on a regular basis that we never would have used before, and that goes for words not only in our native languages, but in Spanish too.


The coronavirus outbreak has forced us to learn new scientific words and phrases which we now hear on the news every day, but it has also changed the everyday expressions and colloquialisms that we use.

In fact, the Real Academia Española de la Lengua RAE (Royal Spanish Academy of Language) has been forced to modernise because of changes in the language due to coronavirus, and has met online to discuss consequences and additions to the Spanish dictionary.

Here are just some of the Spanish words we've learned that will help you to understand and describe the new world we're living in.

Cuaraentena | Quarantine

Cuaraentena or quarantine has become one of the most used and most searched for words during the pandemic for obvious reasons, but it has now even been turned into a verb – Cuarentenear, meaning 'to quarantine'. It can be used in a sentence such as Vamos a cuarentenear un barrio de Zaragoza or 'We are going to quarantine a neighbourhood of Zaragoza'. It has even be used as a gerund, as in cuarenteneando or quarantining. You could say Estoy cuarenteneando or 'I am quarantining'.

Distanciamiento social | Social distancing

A new phrase that has become almost overused in English is social distancing and its Spanish equivalent is distanciamiento social. It of course means to keep a physical distance from others and not to socialise.

social distancing
Social distancing: Photo: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay 



Desescalar | De-escalate

A new word that is not yet in the REA dictionary and is being considered for inclusion, is desescalar or desescalada (a de-escalation). This word was very popular when Spain was coming out of lockdown and going into different phases of desconfinamiento, which is another new word considered for inclusion. If the word existed in English, this would basically translate as 'deconfinement'. 

Confinamiento | Lockdown

Although literally confinameinto means confinement, during the coronavirus crisis, it has come to mean lockdown. This is one of the words that the RAE has collected over this period to add to its dictionary.

Teletrabajar | Telecommuting

For most people working in some type of office during the pandemic, this one will be familiar. Many of us had to (or still do) work from home or work remotely, as we'd more commonly say in English. This word wasn't too popular in Spain before the pandemic, but has now been widely used.

Videollamada | Video call

A new word to come out of the remote working situation that is also not yet in the RAE dictionary is videollamada, literally translated as a video call. Videoconferencia or video conference however is already in the RAE dictionary.


video call
Video call. Photo: Jagrit Parajuli/Pixabay 

Mutearse | To mute yourself

In order to make a video call, work from home and keep in touch with our friends and family during the lockdown, many of us used Zoom for the very first time. A new Spanish word that has come out of our excessive use of Zoom during the quarantine, combines the English verb 'to mute' and the Spanish ending of a reflexive verb – arse. It basically means 'to mute yourself' on Zoom calls.

Zoomleaños | A birthday party on Zoom

And another fun word to come out of Zoom that many of us have probably needed to use over the last few months is Zoomleaños. It combines the word Zoom with the Spanish word for birthday (cumpleaños) and is used to a describe and birthday party or celebration on Zoom.

Covidiota | Covidiot

It first started to be used in the UK, but covidiot has also been used in Spain, translated as covidiota, meaning someone who disregards coronavirus restrictions or acts recklessly, put their own or other peoples' health at risk because of their stupid or idiotic actions.

Mascarilla | A small mask that covers the nose, mouth and chin only

It's hard to imagine that the word mascarilla or mask wasn't used much in Spanish until a few months ago, because we're sure you use it all the time now. Instead, the word máscara was used for mask. Mascarilla has only recently been added to the RAE dictionary and specifically means a mask that only covers the face from the forehead to the upper lip. A full face covering, such as one you'd use for fancy dress, would still be considered a mascara.



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