What would be an appropriate Latin word to refer to the kind of mask you wear to fend of COVID-19? Dictionaries give me “persona” as the appropriate word for mask, but that seems that this would rather refer to the kind of mask you may wear as an actor in a theater play to get in character, rather than what I'm after.

While modern surgical masks didn't exist back in classical times, there's got to be some kind of face covering that was close enough that there's a word for it.

  • There could be something written in Latin from authoritative sources in modern times re surgical masks. Is that Ok for you?
    – Rafael
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 16:49
  • Yes, that would be fine
    – Florianus
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 22:02
  • 1
    Germanic masca is used in Medieval Latin, which seems to mean a mask for air filtering Commented Mar 13, 2022 at 7:20

1 Answer 1


There are a few ways you can express this. After a quick search in the Lexicon Morganianum for "mask," I found "persona oxygenica" as "oxygen mask," "oris tegmen adversus gasium" as a literal way to express "gas mask," and "masca antigasalis" as a neologism for gas mask. I also did a quick search through Ephemeris, the news website in Latin, which found "de mascis ori" which seems to mean face mask.

So, I think that you can use persona, masca, or oris tegmen to mean "mask" in the PPE sense. You might want to elaborate on them with masca ori instead of just masca. You might also want to use an adjective such as the medieval latin word protectivus, which is used in entries in the Lexicon Moranianum, to be clearer; thus persona protectiva, masca protectiva, or even oris tegmen protectivus.

You gave the example of a surgical mask. You could express this with the adjective "chirurgicus -a -um." This would make terms such as masca chirurgica or persona chirurgica.

Hope this helps.

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