Italian Word of the Day: Virus (virus)

Today’s “word of the day” couldn’t be more timely with news about the coronavirus dominating every headline across the world. The Italian word virus (masculine, plural: virus) is written the same as in English but is pronounced quite differently as you can hear from the audio clip below.

IPA: /vì·rus/

The word comes from the Latin virus which was used to describe the poisonous secretion of snakes, creatures and plants.

Il virus sta cominciando a circolare anche a Roma.

The virus is starting to circulate in Rome too.


Italy joined the list of coronavirus-affected countries on January 30th when two positive cases (casi positivi) were reported in Chinese tourists. At first, the infections (infezioni) were limited to Northern Italy but have now spread (si sono diffuse) to all other regions. As of today, Italy is the country in Europe with the highest number of cases.

CDC Online – Public Domain

The most common symptoms of the coronavirus include a fever (febbre), tiredness (stanchezza) and a dry cough (tosse secca), which is why many people confuse it with the normal flu (influenza).

On March 10th, the Italian government announced a nationwide lockdown (quarantena) in order to reduce the number of new cases and ease pressure on the health care system (servizi sanitari). Schools and universities have been forced to close and all public events have been suspended in response to the emergency (emergenza).

People have been ordered to self-isolate (auto-isolarsi) if they show any symptoms (sintomi) and to stay at home (restare a casa) except for proven work or health needs. Those who do venture out must make sure to wash their hands (lavarsi le mani) regularly and maintain a distance of at least one meter (almeno un metro di distanza) between themselves and other people.

As a result of these measures, Italy is already seeing a stark decline in tourism (turismo), putting many small businesses such as cafes, restaurants and hotels under extreme pressure.

At the same time however, these extraordinary restrictions have also brought out the creative side of many Italians. Children have been busy painting banners with the words Andrà tutto bene! (Everything will be ok!), while musicians attempt to raise the spirits of their neighbours by singing and playing music from their balconies. It looks as if moments of joy can be found even in times of extreme anxiety!

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