The Perfect Enemy | Fact check: No, coronavirus is not Latin for ‘heart attack virus’ - USA TODAY
February 3, 2023

Fact check: No, coronavirus is not Latin for ‘heart attack virus’ – USA TODAY

Fact check: No, coronavirus is not Latin for ‘heart attack virus’  USA TODAY

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The claim: Coronavirus is a Latin word for ‘heart attack virus’

A Jan. 6 Facebook video (direct link, archive link) shows a woman purporting to use Google to translate Latin to English.

She types “cor,” then a space, “ona,” then two spaces, and “virus.” Google translates that to “heart attack virus” in English.

“Try it out on your computer and see what you think,” she says. “We were always told it was just a respiratory disease. Still think it’s a coincidence there are so many people getting a heart attack?”

The video was shared more than 400 times in two weeks.

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Our rating: False

Coronavirus is not a Latin word that means “heart attack virus.” While “cor” is Latin for heart, “ona” does not have a meaning in Latin. “Virus” is Latin for poison. “Corona” is Latin for crown and coronaviruses are named for crown-like spikes on their surface.

Coronavirus isn’t Latin for heart attack virus

Google Translate only gives the result shown in the video when the syllables are entered exactly as the woman describes, including the two spaces between “ona” and “virus.”

Despite Google’s translation of the word written this way, experts say this is not an accurate translation and “coronavirus” is not a Latin word for heart attack virus.

“There is no truth to this idea,” Courtney Ann Roby, a classics professor at Cornell University, told USA TODAY.

The origin of the word “coronavirus” isn’t based on a three-part split of the word.

Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Corona” is Latin for crown and is related to – and most likely derived from – a similar Greek word, Roby said. 

“Cor” is Latin for heart, but “ona” does not mean anything in Latin, Roby said. “Virus” is Latin for “poison.”

There is no Latin term that specifically refers to a heart attack, she said.

“They knew the heart was crucial for life and about blood flow through the arteries, but they didn’t really have a category for ‘heart attack’ as an event,” said Roby, referring to ancient Greek and Roman physicians.

The word “coronavirus” was introduced in a short article published in the Nov. 16, 1968, edition of Nature, a scientific journal, according to Merriam-Webster.

Google also does not guarantee that its translations are accurate. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media user who shared the post for comment.

Associated PressPolitiFact, Lead Stories and Reuters also debunked the claim.

Our fact-check sources:

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