Coronavirus variants with clunky, alphanumeric names have now been assigned the letters of the Greek alphabet to simplify discussion and pronunciation while avoiding stigma.
The World Health Organization revealed the new names on Monday amid criticism that those given by scientists to strains such as the South African variant - which goes by multiple names including B.1.351, 501Y.V2, and 20H/501Y.V2 - were too complicated.
Since the pandemic began, the names people have used to describe the virus have provoked controversy. Former U.S. President Donald Trump called the new coronavirus "the China virus" and other monikers, raising concern he was using the names as a political weapon to shift blame to a rival nation.
The WHO, which has urged people not to use language to advance COVID-19 profiling of people or nationalities, has also said people should avoid using country names in association with emerging variants.
The four coronavirus variants considered of concern by the U.N. agency and known generally by the public as the UK, South Africa, Brazil, and India variants have now been assigned the Greek letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, respectively, according to the order of their detection.
Other variants of interest continue down the alphabet.
The choice of the Greek alphabet came after months of deliberations in which other possibilities such as Greek gods and invented, pseudo-classical names were considered, according to bacteriologist Mark Pallen, who was involved in the talks.