noun, plural co·ro·nas, co·ro·nae [kuh-roh-nee]. /kəˈroʊ ni/.
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Words nearby corona
Definition for corona (2 of 2)
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.
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.
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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
On one occasion, he opened fire with a rifle on officers in Corona who were tasked with protecting one of his would-be targets.
She was a Braccio herself, and Corona laughed, though she knew there was truth in the saying.Corleone|F. Marion Crawford
Her mother ran away from me… and she, Corona, was born… a year after… in America… Coronation year.Brother Copas|Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
Margin with a corona of fifty to sixty conical spines of unequal length.
British Dictionary definitions for corona
noun plural -nas or -nae (-niː)
- the trumpet-shaped part of the corolla of daffodils and similar plants; the crown
- a crown of leafy outgrowths from inside the petals of some flowers