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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke January 12, 2023

Coronavirus is not a Latin word that means ‘heart attack virus’

If Your Time is short

  • “Corona” means “crown” in Latin, and coronaviruses are named for the crown-shaped spikes on their surface. It doesn’t mean “heart attack virus.” 

In a recent video shared on Facebook, a woman questions whether "it’s just a coincidence" that the word "coronavirus" appears to translate from Latin to "heart attack virus" in English. 

The video shows her using Google Translate, typing "cor ona  virus" into the field for the Latin word. Google then translates that to "heart attack virus" in English.   

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook.)

We followed the woman’s instructions and typed in the syllables as she suggested, including the arbitrary one and two spaces between the syllables that lead to "heart attack virus" in the English translation.

But that doesn’t mean coronavirus is a Latin word that means "heart attack virus" in English.

Featured Fact-check

Coronaviruses are so named because of the crown-like spikes on their surface, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

A 1997 Washington Post story about the etymology of the word "crown" noted that it traces its ancestry to the Latin word "corona." Google Translate also said that the Latin "corona" translates to "crown" in English.

Virus is also based on a Latin word for "poisonous secretion," the Wall Street Journal said in a 2020 explainer of the word as COVID-19 started to spread widely around the world. 

Google doesn’t guarantee the accuracy of its translations, and a reverse search of the "heart attack virus" seems to be evidence of that. Google Translate said that "heart attack virus" in Latin is "cor impetum virus" — not "cor ona  virus."

Adding spaces to the syllables as the woman did in the Facebook post appears to puzzle Google Translate. For example, "Cor ona," with one space between the two words, translates to "heart wave," but the search engine seems confused. It suggests you translate the word from Portuguese instead of Latin.

We rate claims that coronavirus is Latin for "heart attack virus" False.


Our Sources

Facebook post, Jan. 6, 2023

Merriam-Webster Dictionary, coronavirus definition, visited Jan. 11, 2023

Google Translate disclaimer, visited Jan. 11, 2023

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Human Coronavirus Types, last updated 

Feb. 15, 2020 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'Cordial': A Word Straight from the Heart, visited Jan. 11, 2022

The Washington Post, Etymolog, June 11, 1997

Time, Coronavirus: A Glossary of Terms to Help You Understand the Unfolding Crisis, March 23, 2020

Wall Street Journal, ‘Virus’: The Spread of a Latin Term for Poison, Feb. 21, 2020


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Coronavirus is not a Latin word that means ‘heart attack virus’

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