FACT CHECK: Does AstraZeneca Mean ‘Weapon That Kills’?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook claims AstraZeneca, the name of a U.K.-based biopharmaceutical company, translates to “weapon that kills.”

Verdict: False

AstraZeneca’s name does not mean “weapon that kills.” The company’s name was created after two companies, Astra AB and Zeneca Group PLC, merged in 1998.

Fact Check:

AstraZeneca is a multinational biopharmaceutical company that developed and produced a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization in February, according to the company’s website. AstraZeneca said in a March 25 press release that its COVID-19 vaccine is 76 percent effective against symptomatic COVID-19 and 100 percent effective against severe disease or critical disease and hospitalization.

Now, an image on Facebook purports the company’s name, AstraZeneca, actually translates to “weapon that kills.” The image includes a screen grab of a Wikipedia page titled “Astra (weapon),” alongside a screenshot of a Google Translate window that shows “ze” translates to “that” in Polish and “necare” translates to “killing” in Latin, supposedly proving that AstraZeneca must mean “weapon that kills.”

This translation, however, is not accurate. AstraZeneca addressed the etymology of its name in a couple of tweets in October 2019, explaining that the name was created by combining the names of two merging companies: a Swedish company, Astra AB, and a British company, Zeneca. The two companies merged to form AstraZeneca in 1998, according to CNN.

The tweets explain that “Astra” is derived from the Greek word “astron,” which means “star,” while “Zeneca” is “an invented name.” (RELATED: Did Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla Refuse To Take His Company’s COVID-19 Vaccine?)

Sir David Barnes, Zeneca’s chief executive and then AstraZeneca’s first chief executive, told The Telegraph in 2001 that he paid the company Interbrand to find the name “Zeneca.”

“There is an advantage in being alphabetically at the top or bottom of lists, A or Z,” Barnes told The Telegraph. “I asked Interbrand to find a name that was phonetically memorable, of no more than three syllables and didn’t mean anything stupid, funny or rude in other languages. A new name also allowed us to instill a new company culture.”

AstraZeneca did not return a request for comment by the time of publication.

Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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