This work’s aim was to investigate what verbal means are used by English-speaking Twitter accounts to describe the pandemic while focusing on extralinguistic factors that are the primary catalysts for linguistic transformations in society. A critical discourse analysis of the lexeme ‘Covid-19’ and words accompanying it was applied. A total of 1736 English-language tweets (6844 lexical units) posted during March to April 2020 were selected for the analysis. Functional discourse analysis allowed systematising and commenting on sampling results as well as provided the opportunity to make the following conclusions. In tweets, the lexeme ‘Covid-19’ is combined not only with the actual name of the virus. This lexeme became a productive ground for derivation into various linguistic structures: substantive word combinations, abbreviations, neologisms and anthropomorphic metaphors. The research results application in international practice will allow linguists to interpret neologisms that emerged as a result of the pandemic and foster the understanding of axiological indicators of native speakers. © The Author(s) 2022.