variant of the <a href=https://www.dictionary.com/"https:////www.dictionary.com//browse//covid-19/">COVID-19 <a href=https://www.dictionary.com/"https:////www.dictionary.com//browse//virus/">virus. <em>Omicron variant<\/em> is the common name used to refer to what is technically known as the <em>B.1.1.529 variant.<\/em>\r\n\r\nA variant of a virus is a new <a href=https://www.dictionary.com/"https:////www.dictionary.com//browse//strain/">strain that has emerged due to a <a href=https://www.dictionary.com/"https:////www.dictionary.com//browse//mutation/">mutation (or mutations) in the virus\u2019s genetic structure.\r\n\r\nUse and awareness of the name <em>Omicron variant<\/em> became more common in news reports and public health communications in late 2021, including those about whether it could potentially be more contagious or more severe than previous variants, such as the <a href=https://www.dictionary.com/"https:////www.dictionary.com//e//tech-science//delta-variant///">Delta variant<\/a>.\r\n<h3><strong>What is\u00a0the<em> Omicron\u00a0<\/em><em>subvariant<\/em>?<\/strong><\/h3>\r\nThe term\u00a0<em>Omicron subvariant<\/em> most commonly refers to the BA.2 subvariant (subtype) of the <em>Omicron variant<\/em>. The BA.2 subvariant is sometimes called <em>stealth Omicron<\/em> (or the <em>stealth variant<\/em>) in casual use because it is somewhat more difficult to distinguish from other variants in lab tests. However, this does not mean that it\u2019s not detectable at all. (Public health officials and medical experts have cautioned against the use of nicknames like <em>stealth Omicron<\/em>, which they say can cause panic and misconceptions about such variants.)\r\n\r\nThe BA.2 variant became the subject of public health scrutiny and media reports in early 2022 due to having replaced the original <em>Omicron variant<\/em> as the dominant strain in some places. Based on some studies, the BA.2 variant is even more transmissible than the already highly transmissible original <em>Omicron variant<\/em>. However, there has been no evidence showing that the BA.2 variant causes more severe illness than the original <em>Omicron<\/em> variant. Early studies have shown that vaccination is just as effective against the BA.2 subvariant as it is against the original form of the <em>Omicron variant<\/em>.\r\n\r\nThe BA.2 subvariant is just one of the subvariants of the <em>Omicron variant<\/em>. These subvariants have additional mutations not found in the original variant, but they are still similar enough not to be considered completely distinct variants."},"categories":{},"excerpt":""}"/>
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Tech & Science dictionary

Omicron variant

or omicron variant or Omicron Variant [ om-i-kron OR oh-mi-kron vair-ee-uhnt ]

What is the Omicron variant?

The Omicron variant is a variant of the COVID-19 virus. Omicron variant is the common name used to refer to what is technically known as the B.1.1.529 variant.

A variant of a virus is a new strain that has emerged due to a mutation (or mutations) in the virus’s genetic structure.

Use and awareness of the name Omicron variant became more common in news reports and public health communications in late 2021, including those about whether it could potentially be more contagious or more severe than previous variants, such as the Delta variant.

What is the Omicron subvariant?

The term Omicron subvariant most commonly refers to the BA.2 subvariant (subtype) of the Omicron variant. The BA.2 subvariant is sometimes called stealth Omicron (or the stealth variant) in casual use because it is somewhat more difficult to distinguish from other variants in lab tests. However, this does not mean that it’s not detectable at all. (Public health officials and medical experts have cautioned against the use of nicknames like stealth Omicron, which they say can cause panic and misconceptions about such variants.)

The BA.2 variant became the subject of public health scrutiny and media reports in early 2022 due to having replaced the original Omicron variant as the dominant strain in some places. Based on some studies, the BA.2 variant is even more transmissible than the already highly transmissible original Omicron variant. However, there has been no evidence showing that the BA.2 variant causes more severe illness than the original Omicron variant. Early studies have shown that vaccination is just as effective against the BA.2 subvariant as it is against the original form of the Omicron variant.

The BA.2 subvariant is just one of the subvariants of the Omicron variant. These subvariants have additional mutations not found in the original variant, but they are still similar enough not to be considered completely distinct variants.

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Related words

Lambda variant, Delta variant, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, coronaversary, breakthrough case, twindemic

Where does Omicron variant come from?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Omicron variant was first reported in South Africa in November 2021 and detected in Canada soon after. In the name Omicron variant, the word omicron refers to the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. The name was used by the WHO as part of their system of using Greek letters to identify major COVID-19 variants. Other major variants were named Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Lambda, and Mu.

The B.1.1.529 Variant was first labeled by the WHO as a “Variant Under Monitoring” (VUM). This category includes a large number of COVID-19 variants that may or may not have a higher risk of infection or severity. B.1.1.529 was named Omicron when it was reclassified as a “Variant of Concern” (VOC), a category reserved for variants associated with a higher risk to public health. The VOC classification includes the most severe variants of COVID-19, including the highly contagious Delta variant.

The name Omicron variant came to be well-known in late 2021 due to wide coverage of the variant by international media and international response to its classification by the WHO. Many countries, including the United States, restricted or banned travel to or from South Africa and some neighboring countries in an attempt to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.

Examples of Omicron variant

Much more to learn about the new Omicron variant. Right now it is best to maximize protection by getting vaccinated if you haven’t already, or boosted if you are eligible.
@cyrusshahpar46, November 26, 2021
The World Health Organization is warning that the new omicron variant of the coronavirus poses a "very high" global risk because of the possibility that it spreads more easily and might resist vaccines and immunity in people who were infected with previous strains.
Scott Neuman, NPR, November 29, 2021

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Who uses Omicron variant?

The name Omicron variant is the most common way to refer to the COVID-19 variant that’s technically known as B.1.1.529. It’s widely used by health experts and in media reports.

 

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sealioning, ambigram, the proof is in the pudding, hard pants, the Before Times

Note

This is not meant to be a formal definition of Omicron variant like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of Omicron variant that will help our users expand their word mastery.