AstraZeneca does not translate to ‘weapon that kills’

24 March 2021
What was claimed

AstraZeneca translates to ‘weapon that kills’.

Our verdict

It doesn’t. This claim is made by selectively choosing definitions from different languages and cultures. AstraZeneca’s name was created from a merger, with ‘Astra’ coming from the Greek for ‘star’.

What was claimed

Ipsos MORI translates to ‘they die’ in Latin.

Our verdict

Not really. This is what online translators translate 'Ipsos mori' to, but in reality it is garbled ungrammatical Latin. Ipsos MORI says its name doesn’t mean anything.

A post on Facebook claims that the name of Covid-19 vaccine developer AstraZeneca translates to ‘weapon that kills’. This is not accurate. 

On the subject of its name, AstraZeneca has previously explained that it was formed in 1999 after the merger of Swedish pharmaceutical company Astra AB—which took its name from the Greek for ‘a star’—and the UK-based Zeneca Group plc. 

It said Zeneca is an invented name created by an agency which was instructed to find a name which began with a letter from either the start or end of the alphabet, was memorable, had no more than three syllables and wasn’t offensive in any language. 

The Facebook post claims that AstraZeneca means ‘weapon that kills’ by saying that ‘Astra’ is the name of a supernatural weapon in Hinduism, while ‘ze’ is the Polish for ‘that’ and ‘necare’—rather than ‘neca’—is the Latin for ‘killing’. 

This is all true but, needless to say, this is a pretty selective and misleading approach to translation and etymology.

You could equally argue that the pharmaceutical giant’s name foretells bad things for the Vauxhall Astra car range, given that ‘ze’ means ‘to’ in Luxembourgish and ‘neca’ is colloquial for ‘nothing’ in Portuguese.

The post also warns that the name of market research company Ipsos MORI translates to ‘they die’ in Latin. We have checked this claim before. Although online translators do suggest this, in reality it is garbled and ungrammatical Latin. The name ‘Ipsos MORI’’ actually comes from the merger of two companies and doesn’t mean anything. 

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.