COVID-19 or the “novel coronavirus” is technically termed as SARS-CoV-2. Many know what these characters stand for except the “2.”

Here’s an explanation for what the 2 stands for.

COVID -19 stands for coronavirus detected in 2019.

SARS-CoV-2 is the official technical name for the new strain of virus.

What the 2 Stands For

“The 2 means Type 2,” begins Joi Lucas, MD, medical director of pediatric pulmonology at Nemours Children’s Clinic and an expert in pediatric lung complications from COVID-19.

“There is also a SARS-CoV-1,” continues Dr. Lucas.

“The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses is responsible for the classification and nomenclature of viruses.

“COVID-19 is in the same subgenus as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

“COVID-19 is within the Coronaviridae family.

“The SARS-COV-2 virus is a sister to the human and bat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses (SARS-CoVs) that preceded it. 

“Thus, the name of the new virus appearing in Wuhan in 2019 was: SARS-CoV-2 (as in Type 2).

Where did the name “corona” come from?

Some believe it’s because the virus has spikes that resemble a king’s crown, and “corona” is Spanish for “crown.”

However, that’s not the reason, though it seems like a logical one.

The actual reason is because scanning electron microscope images reveal what appears to be a corona around the virus – resembling the corona (outermost atmosphere) that surrounds the sun.

See the image below showing the sun’s corona. Compare it to the “corona” around the virus (second image), and you’ll understand why someone decided to name this microorganism corona.

Sun’s corona


Coronavirus. The yellow around the orange is the “corona.”

Hopefully, there’ll never be a SARS-CoV-3.

Dr. Lucas is double board certified in pediatrics and pediatric pulmonology. She developed the Asthma KidCare Go-Bag, a carrying case and organizer for asthma and allergy medications. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @Dr.JoiMD. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.