corona

[ kuh-roh-nuh ]
/ kəˈroʊ nə /

noun, plural co·ro·nas, co·ro·nae [kuh-roh-nee] /kəˈroʊ ni/.

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decorum

Origin of corona

First recorded in 1555–65; from Latin corōna “garland, crown” (see crown), from Greek korṓnē “crown, curved object”; akin to korōnís “curved, beaked,” kórax “crow, raven” (see crow1)

Definition for corona (2 of 2)

Corona
[ kuh-roh-nuh ]
/ kəˈroʊ nə /

noun

a city in SE California.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

BEHIND THE WORD

Where does corona come from?

Flowers and crows, priests and soldiers, suns and moons, kings and queens, lagers and viruses? What could all these disparate things possibly have in common? Well, in one way or another, they are involved in the rich history of the word corona.

Corona entered English around 1555–65. It was borrowed directly from the Latin corōna, meaning “garland, wreath, crown.” Its plural form is corōnae. A verb form of corōna was corōnāre, “to crown, wreathe,” ultimate source of the English coronation, “the act or ceremony of crowning a king, queen, or other sovereign.”

Let’s start with a glimpse into life in ancient Rome. Back then, a corōna served various ceremonial and symbolic functions. People wore corōnae of flowers at festivals, for example, or used them to ornament images of gods. Priests donned corōnae when performing important rituals and sacrifices.

Different types of corōna were used as military decorations honoring various acts of bravery. For instance, the corōna mūrālis, or “walled crown,” was a gold crown fashioned in the shape of battlements and was awarded to a soldier who was the first to enter a besieged town or fortress. One especially high honor was the corōna cīvica (“civic crown”), bestowed on a citizen who saved a fellow citizen’s life. It was also known as corōna querca, or “oak crown,” because it was made with oak leaves. This crown became a symbol for emperors and appeared on coins.

Outside of literal crowns worn on the head, the Latin corōna could be used for various things that resemble crowns in their form, including cornices and the halo around the sun. These applications of corōna informed the earliest uses of the word in English.

The oldest recorded sense of corona in English refers to the projecting, slab-like part of a classical cornice. Next up in English’s record, evidenced around the mid-1600s, is corona meaning “a ring of light, as around the sun or moon”—like a figurative crown atop the head of a celestial body. Today, astronomers specifically use corona for the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere, which is visible during a total solar eclipse.

Dig deeper

As we’ve seen, corona comes from the Latin word for “crown.” So does the very word crown!

Much older than corona, crown is found in English around 1125–1175. Crown developed from the Middle English coroune, among other forms, which came from the Anglo-French coroune, in turn from the Latin corona.

Now, the Latin corōna has its own fascinating past. It was borrowed from the ancient Greek korṓnē, a word used for a kind of crow or seabird, as well as for anything curved or hooked, presumably due to the shape of the beak of such birds.

What does the corona in coronavirus mean?

Before 2020, the word corona likely brought to mind for many people Corona, a popular brand of beer made in Mexico. The logo for corona features a gold crown—corona being the Spanish word for “crown,” also from the Latin corōna. The lager-style beer was first brewed in 1925.

Due to the 2020 pandemic, however, corona became widely used as a shortened form for coronavirus, especially COVID-19. Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. First recorded around 1965–70, the name coronavirus is based on the structure of these viruses.

OK, so far we’ve had some Latin lessons, some history, even a dash of architecture and astronomy—a little pathology can’t hurt.

A virus is an extremely tiny infectious agent made up of an RNA or DNA core, a protein coat, and, in some species, an envelope. Coronaviruses contain RNA and are spherical in form. They have an envelope from which project club-like spikes all over its surface. When they discovered the virus group in the 1960s, scientists originally thought the array of these spikes resembled the solar corona, and so named this family of viruses coronavirus.

Did you know ... ?

There are a number of other English words that ultimately come from or are related to the Latin corōna, including coronal, coronary, and coronet. Learn more about their meanings and histories at our entries for the words.

Finally, corolla is a beautiful botanical term—and yes, line of cars—for “the petals of a flower.” It comes from the Latin corolla, “little garland,” a diminutive of corōna. The term corollary is also derived from corolla.

Example sentences from the Web for corona

British Dictionary definitions for corona

corona
/ (kəˈrəʊnə) /

noun plural -nas or -nae (-niː)

Word Origin for corona

C16: from Latin: crown, from Greek korōne anything curved; related to Greek korōnis wreath, korax crow, Latin curvus curved
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Medical definitions for corona

corona
[ kə-rōnə ]

n. pl. co•ro•nas

The crownlike upper portion of a body part or structure, such as the top of the head.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Scientific definitions for corona

corona
[ kə-rōnə ]

Plural coronas coronae (kə-rō)

The luminous, irregular envelope of gas outside the chromosphere of a star. The Sun's corona is composed of ionized gas between approximately 1,000,000°K and 2,000,000°K and has an extremely low density. This phenomenon is visible only during a solar eclipse.
A faintly colored luminous ring appearing to surround a celestial body (such as the Moon or Sun) that is visible through a haze or thin cloud, caused by diffraction of light from suspended matter in the intervening medium. Also called aureole
A faint glow of the air in the region of very strong electric fields, caused by ionization of the air molecules and flow of current in that region in corona discharge.
The crownlike upper portion of a bodily part or structure, such as the top of the head.
A crown-shaped structure on the inner side of the petals of some flowers, such as the daffodil.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.