Fact Check: 'COVID' Spelled Backwards As 'DIVOC' Is NOT Hebrew For 'Possession By An Evil Spirit'

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: 'COVID' Spelled Backwards As 'DIVOC' Is NOT Hebrew For 'Possession By An Evil Spirit' Not Hebrew

Is "divoc," which is "covid" spelled backwards, a Hebrew word that means "possession by an evil spirit"? No, that's not true: "Divoc" is not Hebrew, two experts told Lead Stories. There is a word in Hebrew that connotes an evil spirit that can possess people but that word is "dybbuk" -- which is not "covid" spelled backwards.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Instagram on January 22, 2024. It opened:

Covid spelled backwards is Divoc. Divoc in Hebrew means 'possession by an evil spirit.'

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2024-01-23 at 9.59.24 AM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Tues Jan 23 17:28:19 2024 UTC)

"This is utter garbage," Lital Levy (archived here), associate professor of comparative literature at Princeton University, told Lead Stories via email on January 23, 2024. Levy's expertise in comparative literature "encompasses Hebrew, Arabic, and Anglophone literatures and cultures both individually and in conjunction." She explained there is a Hebrew word that "connotes an evil spirit" but said there is no connection to "covid" spelled backwards:

There is a word, dybbuk, from the triliteral root d-b/v-k, that connotes an evil spirit that can possess people. It's been around for centuries and the fact that COVID backwards spells DIVOC which happens to have some kind of vague, passing similarity to dybbuk means absolutely zero.

Galia Hatav (archived here), associate professor of linguistics at the University of Florida, who is an expert in biblical Hebrew, told Lead Stories via email on January 23, 2024 that the word "divoc" is not a Hebrew word for "possession by an evil spirit":

The Hebrew word for 'possession by evil spirit' has the same consonants of the word you suggested but not the same [vowels]: Dibuk

Britannica explains the meaning of the word "Dybbuk" on the website (archived here):

Dybbuk, in Jewish folklore, a disembodied human spirit that, because of former sins, wanders restlessly until it finds a haven in the body of a living person.

The word "covid" was coined in 2020 by the World Health Organization after the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak began, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (archived here) notes:

On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan, China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, 'CO' stands for 'corona,' 'VI' for 'virus,' and 'D' for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as '2019 novel coronavirus' or '2019-nCoV.'

Other Lead Stories fact checks about topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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