Covid-19 is officially feminine, say French language guardians

AFP - [email protected]
Covid-19 is officially feminine, say French language guardians
The Academie française has spoken. Photo: AFP

Scientists still don't know many things about the new Covid-19 virus but now one thing is certain - in French, the virus is feminine.


Covid-19 is feminine - to be used with the article "la" not "le" - according the official guardian of the French language, which has urged an end to the widespread practice in France of referring to it as masculine.

This is despite the fact that the umbrella term for the virus type - coronavirus - is masculine in French.

"The use of the feminine for Covid-19 would be preferable," the Academie Francaise said in a directive published on its website under the category "faulty use".

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"It is perhaps not too late to give this acronym back the gender it should have."

The academy deplored the use of the masculine "le Covid-19" in the media and general conversation in France, saying the disease had wrongly been attributed the same gender as the germ that causes it: "le" coronavirus.

It explained that Covid was an acronym for coronavirus disease, and that in French, the core word in an acronym is what gives it its gender. In this case, disease, which is a feminine "la maladie" in the language of Moliere.

The World Health Organisation has long referred to COVID-19 as "la", and in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, government websites and the media use the feminine form.

The "Office quebecois de la langue francaise" also recommends its feminine use, and the Royal Spanish Academy has issued similar guidance, citing the same grammar rationale.

The members of the French academy are mostly elderly men who wear an ornate uniform and a sword and are known as the immortals.

Only last year did the notoriously conservative academy open the door to feminine versions of professions such as doctor and teacher.


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[email protected] 2020/05/12 08:14
Don't these "people" realise that a language is a living thing and is always changing and evolving? These so called academics are holding France back internationally but at least the young are trying to change things. This academy is like Canute trying to hold back the tide of change.

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