Volume 11, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2210-4070
  • E-ISSN: 2210-4097



From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments, health agencies, public institutions and the media around the world have made use of metaphors to talk about the virus, its effects and the measures needed to reduce its spread. Dominant among these metaphors have been war metaphors (e.g. ), which present the virus as an enemy that needs to be fought and beaten. These metaphors have attracted an unprecedented amount of criticism from diverse social agents, for a variety of reasons. In reaction, #ReframeCovid was born as an open, collaborative and non-prescriptive initiative to collect alternatives to war metaphors for COVID-19 in any language, and to (critically) reflect on the use of figurative language about the virus, its impact and the measures taken in response. The paper summarises the background, aims, development and main outcomes to date of the initiative, and launches a call for scholars within the metaphor community to feed into and use the #ReframeCovid collection in their own basic and applied research projects.

Available under the CC BY 4.0 license.

Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Benziman, Y.
    (2020) “Winning” the “battle” and “beating” the COVID-19 “enemy”: Leaders’ use of war frames to define the pandemic. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 26(3), 247–256. doi:  10.1037/pac0000494
    https://doi.org/10.1037/pac0000494 [Google Scholar]
  2. Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. J.
    (2020) The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: Rapid review of the evidence. Lancet, 395, 912–920. doi:  10.1016/S0140‑6736(20)30460‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8 [Google Scholar]
  3. Cutler, D.
    (2020) How will COVID-19 affect the health care economy?The JAMA Forum (Journal of the American Medical Association), 323(22), 2237–2238. doi:  10.1001/jama.2020.7308
    https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.7308 [Google Scholar]
  4. Fernández-Pedemonte, D., Casillo, F., & Jorge-Artigau, A. I.
    (2020) Communicating COVID-19: Metaphors we “survive” by. Tripodos, 47(2), 145–159.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Flusberg, S. J., Matlock, T., & Thibodeau, P. H.
    (2017) Metaphors for the war (or race) against climate change. Environmental Communication, 11(6), 769–783. doi:  10.1080/17524032.2017.1289111
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17524032.2017.1289111 [Google Scholar]
  6. (2018) War metaphors in public discourse. Metaphor and Symbol, 33(1), 1–18. doi:  10.1080/10926488.2018.1407992
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10926488.2018.1407992 [Google Scholar]
  7. Gillis, M.
    (2020) Ventilators, missiles, doctors, troops. The justification of legislative responses to COVID-19 through military metaphors. Law and Humanities, 14(2), 135–159. doi:  10.1080/17521483.2020.1801950
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17521483.2020.1801950 [Google Scholar]
  8. Grady, J.
    (1997) Foundations of meaning. Primary metaphors and primary scenes. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of California, Berkeley.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Hauser, D. J., & Schwarz, N.
    (2015) The war on prevention: Bellicose cancer metaphors hurt (some) prevention intentions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(1), 66–77. doi:  10.1177/0146167214557006
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167214557006 [Google Scholar]
  10. Hendricks, R. K., Demjen, Z., Semino, E., & Boroditsky, L.
    (2018) Emotional implications of metaphor: consequences of metaphor framing for mindset about cancer. Metaphor and Symbol, 33(4), 267–279. doi:  10.1080/10926488.2018.1549835
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10926488.2018.1549835 [Google Scholar]
  11. Honigsbaum, M.
    (2013) Regulating the 1918–19 pandemic: Flu, stoicism and the Northcliffe press. Medical History, 57(2), 165–185. doi:  10.1017/mdh.2012.101
    https://doi.org/10.1017/mdh.2012.101 [Google Scholar]
  12. Hutchins, E.
    (2005) Material anchors for conceptual blends. Journal of Pragmatics, 37, 1555–1577. doi:  10.1016/j.pragma.2004.06.008
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2004.06.008 [Google Scholar]
  13. Kövecses, Z.
    (2003) The scope of metaphors. InA. Barcelona (Ed.), Metaphor and metonymy at the crossroads: A cognitive perspective (pp.79–91). Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110894677.79
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110894677.79 [Google Scholar]
  14. Larson, B. M. H., Nerlich, B., & Wallis, P.
    (2005) Metaphors and biorisks: The war on infectious diseases and invasive species. Science Communication, 26(3), 243–268. doi:  10.1177/1075547004273019
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1075547004273019 [Google Scholar]
  15. Martínez-Brawley, E., & Gualda, E.
    (2020) Transnational social implications of the use of the “war metaphor” concerning coronavirus: A bird’s eye view. Culture e Studi del Sociale, 5(1), 259–272.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Pragglejaz Group
    Pragglejaz Group (2007) MIP: A method for identifying metaphorically used words in discourse. Metaphor and Symbol, 22(1), 1–39. 10.1080/10926480709336752
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10926480709336752 [Google Scholar]
  17. Rajandran, K.
    (2020) “A long battle ahead”: Malaysian and Singaporean prime ministers employ war metaphors for COVID-19. GEMA Online. Journal of Language Studies, 20(3). doi:  10.17576/gema‑2020‑2003‑15
    https://doi.org/10.17576/gema-2020-2003-15 [Google Scholar]
  18. Rodríguez-Rey, R., Garrido-Hernansaiz, H., & Collado, S.
    (2020) Psychological impact and associated factors during the initial stage of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic among the general population in Spain. Frontiers in Psychology, 23June. doi:  10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01540
    https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01540 [Google Scholar]
  19. Rojas, D., & Fernández, L.
    (2015) ¿Contra qué se lucha cuando se lucha? Implicancias clínicas de la metáfora bélica en oncología. Revista Médica de Chile, 143, 352–357. doi:  10.4067/S0034‑98872015000300010
    https://doi.org/10.4067/S0034-98872015000300010 [Google Scholar]
  20. Ruiz, I.
    (2018) Between horror and obscene beauty: The passion of photojournalism during the War on Drugs in Mexico (2006–2012). Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, 27(2), 215–229. doi:  10.1080/13569325.2018.1447446
    https://doi.org/10.1080/13569325.2018.1447446 [Google Scholar]
  21. Sabucedo, J. M., Alzate, M., & Hur, D.
    (2020) COVID-19 y la metáfora de la guerra. Revista de Psicología Social, 35, 618–624. doi:  10.1080/02134748.2020.1783840
    https://doi.org/10.1080/02134748.2020.1783840 [Google Scholar]
  22. Semino, E., Demjen, Z., Hardie, A., Rayson, P., & Payne, S.
    (2018) Metaphor, cancer and the end of life: A corpus-based study. New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Sontag, S.
    (1979) Illness as metaphor. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Steen, G. J., Dorst, A. G., Herrmann, B. J., Kaal, A. A., Krennmayr, T., & Pasma, T.
    (2010) A method for linguistic metaphor identification: From MIP to MIPVU. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/celcr.14
    https://doi.org/10.1075/celcr.14 [Google Scholar]
  25. Wicke, P., & Bolognesi, M. M.
    (2020) Framing COVID-19: How we conceptualize and discuss the pandemic on Twitter. PLoS ONE, 15(9), e0240010. doi:  10.1371/journal.pone.0240010
    https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0240010 [Google Scholar]
  26. Zappettini, F.
    (2019) The Brexit referendum: How trade and immigration in the discourses of the official campaigns have legitimised a toxic (inter)national logic. Critical Discourse Studies, 16(4), 403–419. doi:  10.1080/17405904.2019.1593206
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17405904.2019.1593206 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): alternative framings; COVID-19; open-source initiative; pandemic; war metaphors
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error