COVID-19 Vocabulary in Chinese: 87+ Phrases to Discuss the Pandemic
Even after 3 years, topics of the Covid-19 pandemic still dominate Chinese people’s daily life. Whether you’re living in China or traveling to this country, knowing the common Covid vocabulary in Mandarin Chinese such as testing, symptoms, vaccines, and isolation can be incredibly useful as you will probably need to respond to these words every day.
So here’s your quick guide to learning all the necessary Chinese vocabulary for Covid-19. We’ve crafted an essential list (and explanation) of Chinese terms – separated into five sections – that are being used to talk about the coronavirus outbreak. You’ll be able to expand your vocabulary even if you are an advanced Mandarin speaker!
And once you understand the words and phrases, you can learn some useful sentences to discuss the pandemic in Chinese, and share your Covid anecdotes, too!
Sound good? Let’s dig in!
First and foremost, let’s learn how to say Covid-19 and coronavirus in Chinese.
“Covid” in Chinese
The word for “Covid-19” in Mandarin Chinese, as a term for the infectious disease, is 新冠肺炎 (xīnguān fèiyán) – literally “new corona pneumonia”, while the virus that causes the disease – “novel coronavirus” in Chinese is 新冠病毒 (xīnguān bìngdú). However, in both cases, you can also simply say the short version 新冠 (xīnguān) as a general term.
Note that although the official pronunciation of 新冠 is xīnguān, most Chinese people pronounce it as xīnguàn, and it’s okay for you to do so too. (The multiple pronunciation character 冠 is normally pronounced with the fourth tone, although it should be changed into the first tone in this context). Either way, people would understand.
How to Say “I Got Covid” in Chinese
In Chinese, the expression we use the most for “I got Covid-19” is 我得了新冠 (Wǒ dé le xīnguān). You’ll want to use this expression when you actually have Covid. If you have had Covid before, say 我得过新冠 (Wǒ dé guò xīnguān) instead. And if you want to ask someone “Have you had Covid?”, you say 你得过新冠吗？ (Nǐ dé guò xīnguān ma?)
Related Reading: 了 (le) vs 过 (guò) – When to Use Which
A slightly more formal way of saying “I got Covid” in Chinese is to replace 得 (dé) with 感染 (gǎnrǎn) and say 我感染了新冠 (Wǒ gǎnrǎn le xīnguān). The word 感染 (gǎnrǎn), which often appears in newspapers and broadcasts, means “infect” or “be infected”. (read more about this word)
Finally, the simplest form of “I got Covid” in Chinese is 我阳了 (Wǒ yáng le) – literally “I am positive”, meaning I tested positive for Covid.
Interestingly, many Chinese people tend to make a pun on the character 阳 (yáng) – “positive” by replacing it with 羊 (yáng) – the character for “sheep” (or just a sheep emoji) in text messages or when they announce it on social media. So, don’t be surprised when a Chinese person claims he/she is a sheep – 我羊了 (Wǒ yáng le). It just means they got Covid.
Other punny expressions include 小羊人 (xiǎo yáng rén) – people with Covid, “little sheep dudes”, and 羊圈 (yáng juàn) – crowd infected with Covid, “sheep pen”. Of course, these are rather casual expressions and should only be used with friends or people you are familiar with.
Now that you know how to say Covid-19 and coronavirus in Chinese, we’ll help you to build your essential Covid vocabulary.
General Chinese Covid Vocabulary
There are lots of terms we want to share with you. Here’s a list of the most basic vocabulary words and expressions to get you started on talking about Covid-19 in Mandarin Chinese.
|Covid test||新冠检测||xīnguān jiǎncè|
|Covid case||新冠病例||xīnguān bìnglì|
Before we add more words to this list, here are some technicalities to help you understand how to use these most common Covid words in Chinese.
1. Epidemic in Chinese: 疫情 (yìqíng)
With 疫 (yì) meaning “epidemic” or “plague”, and 情 (qíng) meaning “situation”, the word 疫情 (yìqíng) basically refers to a situation of a virus outbreak. In daily conversations, very often Chinese people use this relatively general term to address Covid.
Yìqíng duì jīngjì zàochéng le jùdà yǐngxiǎng.
The epidemic has had a huge impact on the economy.
2. Pandemic in Chinese: 全球疫情 (quánqiú yìqíng)
The word for “pandemic” in Chinese is 全球疫情 (quánqiú yìqíng), literally “global epidemic”. This is the word you can use when you are talking about an epidemic such as Covid-19 that has spread over continents.
Méirén zhīdào quánqiú yìqíng huì zěnyàng jiéshù.
No one knows how the pandemic will end.
3. Virus in Chinese: 病毒 (bìngdú)
In Chinese, the word for “virus” is 病毒 (bìngdú), where 病 (bìng) means “disease” or “illness”, and 毒 (dú) means “poison” or “toxin”.
Xīnguān búshì xìjūn, érshì bìngdú.
Covid-19 is not a bacteria, but a virus.
4. Covid Variant in Chinese: 新冠变异毒株 (xīnguān biànyì dúzhū)
Numerous variants of the virus that causes Covid-19 are being tracked globally during this pandemic. In Chinese, Covid variants are called 新冠变异毒株 (xīnguān biànyì dúzhū), literally “Covid mutant poison strains”.
Xīnguān biànyì dúzhū yǐjīng fāxiàn chāo yì qiān zhǒng!
Over 1000 Covid-19 variants have been found!
5. Omicron in Chinese: 奥密克戎 (Àomìkèróng)
All major Covid-19 variants have their official Chinese name. Omicron, the variant of concern now is called 奥密克戎 (Àomìkèróng) in Chinese while the earlier Delta variant is transliterated as 德尔塔 (Dé’ěrtǎ).
Suǒyǒu de biànyì dúzhū, bāokuò Dé’ěrtǎ hé Àomìkèróng, duì mǒu xiē rénqún lái shuō dōu hěn wēixiǎn.
All variants, including Delta and Omicron, can be dangerous to certain populations.
Related Reading: How English Names Are Translated into Chinese
6. Infection in Chinese: 感染 (gǎnrǎn)
The word 感染 (gǎnrǎn) can be both a verb and a noun. For instance:
Wǒmen dōu gǎnrǎn guò xīnguān.
We’ve all had Covid.
Èrcì xīnguān gǎnrǎn kěnéng huì gèng wēixiǎn.
Repeat Covid infections could be more dangerous.
And the people who are infected are called 感染者 (gǎnrǎnzhě) in Chinese.
Dàduō xīnguān gǎnrǎnzhě dōu yǐjīng huīfù le.
Most of the people that had Covid have already recovered.
7. Spread in Chinese: 传播 (chuánbō)
Numerous efforts have been made across the globe to stop or, at least, delay the spread of Covid-19. In Chinese, the word for “spread” is 传播 (chuánbō). It may also be used to say “transmit”.
Rènhé xīnguān gǎnrǎnzhě dōu kěyǐ jiāng bìngdú chuánbō gěi tārén.
Anyone who has Covid-19 can spread the virus to others.
8. Covid Test in Chinese: 新冠检测 (xīnguān jiǎncè)
In Chinese, the term for the Covid-19 test is 新冠检测 (xīnguān jiǎncè) in which 检测 (jiǎncè) means “detection” or “testing”. Don’t confuse the word with 考试 (kǎoshì), which refers to an exam at school.
Xiànzài nǐ kěyǐ zài jiā zuò xīnguān jiǎncè.
Nowadays you can take a Covid-19 test at home.
9. Covid Case in Chinese: 新冠病例 (xīnguān bìnglì)
病例 (bìnglì) – literally “disease instance” is the word we use in Chinese to describe a particular instance of a disease. A confirmed case is called 确诊病例 (quèzhěn bìnglì) whereas a suspected case is called 疑似病例 (yísì bìnglì).
Xīnguān bìnglì shùmù chíxù shàngshēng.
The number of Covid-19 cases continues to go up.
10. Symptom in Chinese: 症状 (zhèngzhuàng)
The word for “symptom” in Chinese is 症状 (zhèngzhuàng), literally “illness status”. Patients who don’t show symptoms are referred to as 无症状 (wú zhèngzhuàng) in Chinese.
Chángjiàn de xīnguān zhèngzhuàng bāokuò késòu, fā shāo, hé hóulóng tòng.
Common Covid-19 symptoms include cough, fever, and sore throat.
Hěnduō xīnguān gǎnrǎnzhě dōu shì wú zhèngzhuàng.
Many people infected with Covid-19 were asymptomatic.
11. Immunity in Chinese: 免疫 (miǎnyì)
You may use the word 免疫 (miǎnyì) for “immunity” and “immune”. Literally, the word means “free from epidemic”.
Àomìkèróng gàosù wǒmen qúntǐ miǎnyì kěnéng zhǐ shì yì zhǒng kōngxiǎng.
Omicron shows us herd immunity might just be a pipe dream.
12. Vaccine in Chinese: 疫苗 (yìmiáo)
The word for “vaccine” in Chinese is 疫苗 (yìmiáo). 疫 (yì) stands for 免疫 (miǎnyì) – “immunity” here and 苗 (miáo) means “seedling”. So basically 疫苗 (yìmiáo) means a seedling growing in your body that’ll give you immunity.
You can use this term whenever you’re talking about vaccines in general. To refer to Covid-19 vaccines, you can say 新冠疫苗 (xīnguān yìmiáo).
Xīnguān yìmiáo yǒu zhù yú zǔzhǐ yìqíng chuánbō.
Vaccines help stop the spread of Covid-19.
13. Quarantine in Chinese: 隔离 (gélí)
The word “quarantine” in Chinese is 隔离 (gélí). It involves separating and restricting the movements of people with confirmed cases (确诊病例/quèzhěn bìnglì) or close contact (密接/mìjiē) to see if they become sick.
In China, quarantine is usually done at home (居家隔离/jūjiā gélí) or in an assigned hotel (酒店隔离/jiǔdiàn gélí). To say a 3-day quarantine period in Chinese, you say 三天隔离 ( sān tiān gélí).
Qiánwǎng Zhōngguó de lǚxíngzhě bú zài xūyào gélí.
Quarantine is no longer required for travelers to China.
14. Lockdown in Chinese: 封控 (fēngkòng)
The word for “lockdown” in Chinese is 封控 (fēngkòng) in which 封 (fēng) means “seal off” and 控 (kòng) means “control”. In addition, you may say 封城 (fēng chéng) if you are specifically talking about a city-wide lockdown. And to say “lift lockdown”, you say 解除封控 (jiěchú fēngkòng), or in short – 解封 (jiě fēng).
Qítā guójiā zǎo jiù jiěchú xīnguān fēngkòng le.
Other countries lifted Covid-19 lockdowns long ago.
15. Zero-Covid in Chinese: 清零 (qīnglíng)
The term for Zero-Covid strategy in Chinese is 清零 (qīnglíng), literally, “eradicate to zero”.
For years, China succeeded in preventing the spread of Covid-19, until it didn’t. After a series of street protests against strict lockdowns and extensive testing, the Chinese government finally had to ditch the 清零 (qīnglíng) policy at the end of 2022 and went for 放开 (fàngkāi) – “let go”.
Chángqī qīnglíng zhèngcè bèi zhèngmíng shì bú xiànshí de.
The long-term zero-Covid policy proved to be not realistic.
Now that you have the general words related to Covid-19 in Chinese, it’s time to learn some more specific vocabulary to discuss the different aspects of Covid.
Check out these additional Chinese word lists around Covid divided into categories. We’ve included in each section some sample sentences that may help you get inspired to make a few of your own. Once you are familiar with the expressions, you’ll be able to talk about the Covid symptoms, lockdowns, vaccines, and more all in Chinese!
Covid Symptoms in Chinese
Covid-19 affects different people in different ways. The following are the most common Covid symptoms expressed in Mandarin Chinese. Knowing these words and phrases can be very helpful if you need to consult a doctor in China. They are also just good to know in general!
(If you want to branch out beyond Covid, we also have a general post on Chinese medical terms and phrases.)
|mild symptoms||轻症||qīng zhèng|
|severe symptoms||重症||zhòng zhèng|
|incubation period||潜伏期||qiánfú qī|
|sore throat||喉咙痛||hóulóng tòng|
|stuffy nose||鼻塞||bí sè|
|runny nose||流鼻涕||liú bítì|
|muscle aches||肌肉痛||jīròu tòng|
|loss of taste||味觉丧失||wèijué sàngshī|
|lost of smell||嗅觉丧失||xiùjué sàngshī|
|trouble breathing||呼吸困难||hūxī kùnnán|
|long Covid||长期新冠||chángqī xīnguān|
|recover (from Covid)||阳康||yáng kāng|
Nǐ de zhèngzhuàng shì shénme?
What are your symptoms?
Wǒ méiyǒu rènhé zhèngzhuàng.
I don’t have any symptoms.
Wǒ hóulóng tòng, wèijué hé xiùjué yě sàngshī le.
I have a sore throat, and I lost my sense of taste and smell.
Bí sè hé jīròu tòng sìhū shì XBB biànyì dúzhū zuì chángjiàn de zhèngzhuàng.
Congestion and muscle aches appear to be the most common XBB variant symptoms.
Wǒ yǐjīng wánquán yáng kāng le.
I have fully recovered from a Covid infection.
Things to Say in Chinese If Someone’s Got Covid:
多保重 (Duō bǎo zhòng) – “Take good care”
好好休息 (Hǎo hǎo xiūxi) – “Have a good rest”
祝你早日阳康 (Zhù nǐ zǎorì yáng kāng) – “Wish you recover soon”
Chinese Vocabulary Related to Covid Isolation and Precautions
Wearing masks, social distancing, constantly washing hands, working and learning remotely – we’ve adjusted to follow “best practice” prevention guidelines to contain the spread of Covid-19. Below are commonly used terms in Chinese to describe these efforts.
|wash hands constantly||勤洗手||qín xǐ shǒu|
|hand sanitizer||洗手液||xǐ shǒu yè|
|wear a mask||戴口罩||dài kǒuzhào|
|hazmat suit||防护服||fánghù fú|
|wear a hazmat suit||穿防护服||chuān fánghù fú|
|measure temperature||测体温||cè tǐwēn|
|go out less often||少出门||shǎo chūmén|
|work from home||居家工作||jūjiā gōngzuò|
|learn remotely||上网课||shàng wǎng kè|
|social-distancing||保持社交距离||bǎochí shèjiāo jùlí|
|centralized quarantine||集中隔离||jízhōng gélí|
|travel restrictions||旅行限制||lǚxíng xiànzhì|
Yìqíng qījiān chéngzuò gōnggòng jiāotōng xūyào dài kǒuzhào.
Masks are required to ride public transport during the pandemic.
Xīnguān yìqíng zhìshǐ yuè lái yuè duō de yuángōng jūjiā gōngzuò.
Covid-19 has led to more and more employees working from home.
Jìn liǎng nián lái, wǒ dōu zài jiā shàng wǎng kè.
For nearly two years, I have been learning remotely at home.
Wèi zǔzhǐ xīnguān de chuánbō, guānfāng jiànyì bǎochí shèjiāo jùlí.
To help stop the spread of coronavirus, the authorities recommend social-distancing.
Rúguǒ nǐ dé le xīnguān, jiù bìxū zìwǒ gélí wǔ tiān.
If you have Covid-19 you must self-isolate for 5 days.
Chinese Vocabulary Related to Covid Testing
In China, medical staff will take a “swab test” (usually done in the mouth) to collect cells to test for Covid. Mass testing proved to be effective in reducing the likelihood of further spreading the virus until the zero-Covid policy was ended. Now tests are only available at designated hospitals.
Below are the words relevant to the Covid-19 test in Chinese.
|Covid test||新冠检测||xīnguān jiǎncè|
|testing center||检测点||jiǎncè diǎn|
|testing kits||检测试剂盒||jiǎncè shìjì hé|
|molecular testing (PCR)||核酸检测||hésuān jiǎncè|
|antigen testing||抗原检测||kàngyuán jiǎncè|
|take a PCR test||做核酸||zuò hésuān|
|take an antigen test||做抗原||zuò kàngyuán|
|nose swab||捅鼻子||tǒng bízi|
|throat swab||捅喉咙||tǒng hóulóng|
|test result||检测结果||jiǎncè jiéguǒ|
|test positive||阳性||yáng xìng|
|test negative||阴性||yīn xìng|
Fēngkòng qījiān jūmín xūyào měi sān tiān zuò yí cì hésuān.
During the lockdown period, residents need to take a PCR test every three days.
Xiànzài xīnguān jiǎncè diǎn bǐ yǐqián shǎo duō le.
There are now far fewer Covid testing sites than before.
Rúguǒ nǐ yǒu xīnguān gǎnrǎn zhèngzhuàng, kěyǐ zài jiā zuò yí gè kuàisù kàngyuán.
You can take a rapid antigen test at home if you have symptoms of Covid-19 infection.
Wǒ zǎoshang zuò le kàngyuán, ránhòu fāxiàn zìjǐ yòu yáng le.
I did the antigen test this morning and got a positive result again.
Chéngkè xūyào zài dēngjī shí chūshì sì shí bā xiǎoshí nèi hésuān yīnxìng zhèngmíng.
Passengers are required to present a negative PCR test result within 48 hours upon boarding.
Jiǎncè jiéguǒ chūlái le, háihǎo wǒ shì yīn xìng.
The test result came out. Luckily I tested negative.
Chinese Vocabulary Related to Covid Vaccination
Vaccines can help protect against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from Covid. Here are some common words and phrases you can use to describe Covid-19 vaccination in Chinese.
|get vaccinated||打疫苗||dǎ yìmiáo|
|get vaccinated (formal)||接种疫苗||jiēzhòng yìmiáo|
|proof of vaccination||疫苗接种证明||yìmiáo jiēzhòng zhèngmíng|
|one-dose vaccine||一剂/针疫苗||yí jì/zhēn yìmiáo|
|two-dose vaccine||两剂/针疫苗||liǎng jì/zhēn yìmiáo|
|booster shot||加强针||jiāqiáng zhēn|
|fully vaccinated||完全接种疫苗||wánquán jiēzhòng|
|vaccine passport||疫苗护照||yìmiáo hùzhào|
Dǎ yìmiáo shì jiàngdī xīnguān fēngxiǎn zuìhǎo de bànfǎ.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to reduce the risk of Covid-19.
Yìxiē wánquán jiēzhòng yìmiáo de rén réng huì gǎnrǎn xīnguān.
Some fully vaccinated people will still get Covid.
Dànshì xīnguān yìmiáo kěyǐ fáng zhòng zhèng.
However, Covid-19 vaccines could prevent severe illness.
Wǒ yígòng dǎ guò sān zhēn yìmiáo, bāokuò yì zhēn jiāqiáng zhēn.
I have had a total of three shots of the vaccine, including a booster shot.
Suǒyǒu lǚxíngzhě dōu xūyào chūshì zhìshǎo liǎng jì xīnguān yìmiáo jiēzhòng zhèngmíng cái néng jìnrù zhè gè guójiā.
All travelers need to present evidence of at least two doses of a Covid vaccination to enter this country.
Summary: Talking about Covid-19 in Chinese
The most simple word for Covid in Chinese is 新冠 (xīnguān). The same term can be used for the epidemic disease as well as the virus itself. In daily conversations, Chinese people also use the word 疫情 (yìqíng) to refer to the Covid-19 situation in general.
To say “someone’s got Covid”, there are three ways depending on the formality: … 得了新冠 (dé le xīnguān), …感染了新冠 (gǎnrǎn le xīnguān), and …阳了 (yáng le). To wish someone a speedy recovery, say 祝你早日阳康 (Zhù nǐ zǎorì yáng kāng). Other words and phrases related to Covid symptoms, testing, vaccines, quarantine, and lockdowns are also useful to know when you want to strike up conversations with Chinese people around this topic or for just improving your Chinese skills in general.
Bonus: Has Covid-19 Affected Your Chinese Learning?
Well, it certainly won’t stand in the way of your Chinese fluency from now on!
After three years of strict restrictions, China finally opened borders to international students without quarantine requirements! Find out the best Mandarin schools to study Chinese in China this year or continue to learn Chinese online from the comfort of your home.