This Week In Words: March 7–13, 2020

A number of stories about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 contributed words to this week's list of vocabulary from the week's news, showing how the pandemic is impacting politics, the economy, and even sports.

Start learning with an activity...

  • Practice

    Answer a few questions on each word. Get one wrong? We'll ask some follow-up questions. Use it to prep for your next quiz!
  • Spelling Bee

    Test your spelling acumen. See the definition, listen to the word, then try to spell it correctly. Beat your last streak, or best your overall time. Spellers of the world, untie!
  • Vocabulary Jam

    Compete head-to-head in real-time to see which team can answer the most questions correctly. Start a Jam and invite your friends and classmates to join!

Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. asymptomatic
    having no signs or manifestations of an illness or disease
    The confirmed cases include a player for Juventus football club, Daniele Rugani. The player was currently asymptomatic, the club said.
    BBC (Mar 12, 2020)
    After placing the entire country on lockdown, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ordered that all shops except for food stores and pharmacies close. Travel within the country is severely limited as hospitals and officials struggle with a large-scale outbreak of COVID-19, with over 12,000 confirmed cases. Simptoma is Ancient Greek for "accident" or "disease." To be asymptomatic is to show no signs of illness even while testing positive for a disease.
  2. consensus
    agreement in the judgment reached by a group as a whole
    “The consensus among experts is that 60 to 70 percent of the population will be infected as long as this remains the situation.”
    New York Times (Mar 11, 2020)
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be leaving office soon after a historic fifteen years in office. She gave a speech warning her country that the pandemic will be serious, and widespread, and will effect people's lives and the economy in ways that cannot be predicted. She said that between one and two thirds of the population might get the virus, and that people should calmly prepare to take measures to protect themselves and others.
  3. epoch
    a period marked by distinctive character
    In January, with no warning, Putin dismissed the government and declared a need to revise the constitution, a process that most observers assumed would lay the groundwork for the next Putin epoch in Russian politics.
    New Yorker (Mar 12, 2020)
    Russian President Vladimir Putin has orchestrated a change in the constitution that would effectively allow him to remain President through 2036. He has already held the office for 20 years, including a short period during which he ruled from behind the scenes in order to get around term limits. The new move would abolish them altogether, and since he rigs the elections nobody expects him to lose.
  4. hiatus
    an interruption in the intensity or amount of something
    The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
    Washington Post (Mar 11, 2020)
    Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, shortly after touching every microphone and surface at a press conference to show he didn't take the disease seriously, tested positive for the coronavirus. As a result, the NBA suspended the rest of the season effective immediately, which meant sending a stadium full of fans home before the Jazz game against the Oklahoma City Thunder even began. Hiatus means "gap" or "opening" in Latin.
  5. ideological
    of an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group
    He said he may be losing the delegate race and the debate over electability, but he is winning the ideological and generational battles.
    Washington Times (Mar 11, 2020)
    After suffering major losses in Democratic primaries, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says he'll keep fighting to win the nomination. With a debate upcoming, observers say that's his best chance to improve his chances in the next round of primaries, though polls show him behind Biden in key states like Florida, Arizona, Ohio, and Illinois. An ideology is a belief system that forms the basis for political or other actions and movements.
  6. intermediary
    a negotiator who acts as a link between parties
    The virus, which probably originated in bats but passed to people via an as yet unrecognized intermediary animal species, is believed to have started infecting people in Wuhan, China, in late November or early December.
    Scientific American (Mar 11, 2020)
    The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to be a pandemic. While it is spreading around the globe, there appears to be a dramatic difference in its scope depending on the scale and nature of responses to it. Some countries, notably Taiwan and Singapore, have much slower rates of spread than others. Experts say that effective early responses with frequent testing are the best way to prevent widespread infections.
  7. overwhelming
    very intense
    But as coronavirus worsens, with more than 1,000 cases now reported in the US, Trump could face overwhelming pressure to scale down or scrap his regular rallies, a move that is likely to hurt him more than Biden, his probable opponent in the November election.
    Guardian (Mar 12, 2020)
    After weeks of saying that the coronavirus was not serious, President Trump cancelled a number of upcoming rallies out of fear that big crowds will spread the disease. Whelm is an Old English word that's fallen out of use. It means "turned over," like a boat on the water. Overwhelm is still in common use, and means the same thing, but with the added implication that the boat is sinking.
  8. rebuke
    an act or expression of criticism and censure
    The vote represented a rebuke of the US over its targeted airstrike on Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian commander who was killed in January.
    CNN (Mar 11, 2020)
    15 rockets were fired at a military base in Iraq, killing two Americans and one British national. The rockets were fired from a pickup truck found nearby, and Iranian-backed militants are suspected to have launched the attack. The Iraqi government voted to expel all U.S. troops from the country, so the legal status of remaining troops is unlcear.
  9. rebuttal
    the speech act of refuting by offering a contrary argument
    And not long after Abrams’ State of the Union rebuttal, advisers to Biden sparked a cycle of rumors by floating the idea in Axios (where else?) of Biden “packaging his presidential campaign announcement with a pledge to choose Stacey Abrams as his vice president.”
    Rolling Stone (Mar 11, 2020)
    After commanding wins in Michigan and other states, Joe Biden is the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. As a result, speculation is growing about who he will name as his running mate. Most observers say that it needs to be a woman, and likely a woman of color. One name that features prominently on many lists is Stacy Abrams, who narrowly lost a controversial election for the Governorship of Georgia.
  10. skepticism
    doubt about the truth of something
    The idea has been met with skepticism in recent days from even Republicans, who call the idea both premature and something that would not help in this situation.
    USA Today (Mar 11, 2020)
    President Trump gave an address from the Oval Office about the coronavirus and the government's response. His message confused many people, since it contained a number of misstatements that the White House clarified after the speech. In addition to travel restrictions on Europe, he also proposed a payroll tax cut and assistance for some businesses. Members of Congress have their own plan, which they are attempting to pass quickly.
Created on March 9, 2020 (updated March 12, 2020)

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.