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Fact Check-Posts incorrectly interpret intended meaning of ‘AstraZeneca’

A mistranslation of “AstraZeneca”, the name of a pharmaceutical company making one of the COVID-19 vaccines, is being disseminated online. While users claim AstraZeneca means “weapon to kill” the company explained AstraZeneca was created from two company names, Astra AB and Zeneca Group, where Astra derives from the Greek for “star” and Zeneca is a name invented by a branding agency.

The posts (here , here , here , here) show a screenshot of translations of “astra”, “ze” and “necare”, alleging that “astra” means “weapon” in Hinduism, “ze” means “that” in Polish, and “necare” means “killing” in Latin, concluding that “Astra Ze Neca” means “Weapon that kills”. Captions on the posts include, “Wake up, fools!”; “The more you know…”; and “vetted it, checks out.”

Although these individual translations appear to be correct for these languages (here , here , here , here), the posts have chosen arbitrary languages from which to translate the words into English: “Astra” also means “star” in Latin (here) and “necat” means “salvation” in Turkish (here).

The etymology for star also includes multiple roots, including Greek, Latin and Sanskrit (www.etymonline.com/word/*ster-).

AstraZeneca was formed in 1999 with the fusion of the Swedish company Astra AB (founded 1913) and the British company Zeneca Group (founded 1993) (here , here).

In 2019 AstraZeneca explained the origin of their brand’s name on Twitter here and here . They said, “’Astra’ has its roots in the Greek astron, meaning ‘a star’” and “’Zeneca’ is an invented name, created by an agency instructed to find a name which began with a letter from either the top or bottom of the alphabet and was phonetically memorable, of no more than three syllables and do not have an offensive meaning in any language.”

Former Chief Executive of Zeneca, Sir David Barnes (here), told The Telegraph in 2001 (here) that he asked branding agency Interbrand to invent a name for his company.

Reuters debunked claims in March 2021 that AstraZeneca means “kill stars” in Latin, as seen in Spanish here .

VERDICT

Partly false. Astra derives from Greek for “star” and Zeneca is a name invented by a branding agency.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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