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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke June 21, 2021

No, AstraZeneca doesn’t mean ‘weapon that kills’

If Your Time is short

  • AstraZeneca formed after the merger of two companies: Astra AB and Zeneca. Astra alludes to the Greek word for "star" and "Zeneca" was a word invented by a brand company.

Working with the University of Oxford, AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company, developed a vaccine against COVID-19 that is being used in parts of the world to inoculate people against the disease. 

But an image being shared on social media suggests that the company harms rather than helps. Pulling together three different languages — Sanskrit, Polish and Latin — the image claims that AstraZeneca means "weapon that kills."

The image includes a screenshot of a Wikipedia article about an astra, which, according to the article, "was a supernatural weapon" in Hinduism.

It also has screenshots of two translations provided by Google. In Polish, according to Google Translate, "ze" means "that" and "necare" means "killing" in Latin.

But the company says this isn’t the meaning of its name.

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

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In October 2019, someone asked AstraZeneca on Twitter about the origin of the brand name.

"AstraAB was founded in 1913 in Sodertalje, Sweden," the company wrote from its verified Twitter account. "‘Astra’ has its roots in the Greek astron, meaning ‘a star’. Zeneca was formed in June 1993 by the demerger of the pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals businesses of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) into a separate company." 

"Zeneca" is an invented name, the company said — "created by an agency instructed to find a name which began with a letter from either the top or the bottom of the alphabet and was phonetically memorable, of no more than three syllables and did not have an offensive meaning in any language." 

In 1999, Astra AB, the Swedish pharmaceutical company, merged with Zeneca Group, which was based in the United Kingdom.

Wikipedia has many articles about the word "Astra," ranging from a Marvel Comics character to a 2012 Bengali movie to a beer.

We rate the claim that the company’s name means "weapon that kills" False.


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No, AstraZeneca doesn’t mean ‘weapon that kills’

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