How to pronounce omicron, the new COVID variant of concern

Coronavirus

Omicron, the latest COVID-19 variant of concern designated by the World Health Organization, gets its name from a letter in the Greek alphabet. (Photo: Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Omicron, the latest COVID-19 variant of concern designated by the World Health Organization, gets its name from a letter in the Greek alphabet. But unlike the alpha or delta variants before it, omicron might not roll off the tongue so naturally to English speakers.

How are you supposed to say omicron?

For American English speakers, there are two correct pronunciations, according to Merriam-Webster. Both aa-muh-kraan and o-muh-kraan are correct, according to the dictionary. Both place emphasis on the first syllable. (Click here to hear both pronunciations.)

For British English speakers, the pronunciation is more like like o-my-kraan, with emphasis on the second syllable.

Traditionalists may insist on sticking with the ancient Greek pronunciation. Dr Armand D’Angour, a professor of classical languages at Oxford University, told the Telegraph that would sound like “oh-mee-kron.”

No matter how you say it, the omicron variant is worrying. The WHO warned Monday that the global risk from the variant is “very high” based on the early evidence, saying the mutated coronavirus could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”

The WHO said there are still “considerable uncertainties” about the omicron variant. While no deaths linked to omicron have been reported so far, little is known for certain about the variant, including whether it is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness or more able to evade vaccines. Last week, a WHO advisory panel said it might be more likely to re-infect people who have already had a bout with COVID-19.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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