Sunday, September 21, 2014

The word "viral" first appeared in the New York Times database in 1923. It has a different connotation then the common usage today. In 1923, the Times referred to the word viral as the spread of a virus diseases such as "viral hepatitis." The Chicago Tribune did not reference the word viral until 1963 and used it in the same context as the times. It describes the spread of an infectious disease. The Los Angeles Times began referencing viral the same year as the times in 1923. It was also used to describe viruses spreading across the nation. I found scholarly articles to use the word "viral" in the same context as the newspapers in the mid 20th century. However, the scholarly articles used it in a much more technical term and described viral as minor case, but the newspapers described viral as a mass outbreak or danger to society. Today's common usage of the term viral is used in two different ways. It is still used as the spread of viruses or diseases, but it is also used to describe images, videos, or information circulation the web at a rapid rate. Videos are coined viral, if they hit enough views within a certain period. The usage of the word viral in this modern sense starting becoming popular when the Internet was created. On a side note, using Google Ngram viewer to track the usage of viral over the ages I found that the term viral has been steadily increasing over the 20th century and into the 21st.


  1. Interesting word choice, I would have never thought of it. I like how you included the Ngram, it's surprising how much the use has increased over time since diseases and viruses have always been a societal concern.

  2. I like the word. I'm kind of surprised that it was not commonly used in a medical sense early on. I recognize that our understanding of diseases has increased drastically but I always thought the term was used long before we actually understood what viruses were. As an aside I just looked up the ngram for viral vs virus