The new Covid variant has put the world on high alert for another wave of infections – but, amid all the breaking news, not many people seem very confident when it comes to pronouncing Omicron.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the letter is usually pronounced like oh-my-cron in the UK, but there is no single agreed upon way to say it in England.
In the US, it’s pronounced like ah-mih-cron or oh-mih-cron.
But it seems like very few people have been able to agree on a universal way of saying it.
What does Omicron even mean?
The new Covid strain was named after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet at the end of November by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO wants to avoid stigma around certain areas linked to various variants and so has tried to name them in an ordered system.
The WHO also only names those variants which are “of interest” or “of concern”.
Giving the strains another name away from their complicated scientific names helps the general public access them too.
Why did the WHO choose this word?
WHO has identified five variants of concern which we need to keep an eye on.
The first few Covid strains were called Alpha, then Beta and Gamma – going in order of the alphabet.
The most recent one which shook the international community was the Delta variant – which is the name of the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet.
WHO then identified six other variants but they did not meet the thresholds to be in the of interest or of concern categories.
It named the subsequent two variants of interest, Lambda and Mu, after the next two letters in the Greek alphabet, but then skipped two letters to name Omicron.
A WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic explained: ”‘Nu’ is too easily confounded with ‘new’, and ‘Xi’ was not used because it is a common last name.”
He added that the WHO want to avoid “causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic group” when it comes to naming diseases.