In this contribution, we explore the plausibility and consequences of treating arguments over what counts as a COVID-19 death as metalinguistic arguments. While unquestionably related to the epidemiological and public health issues, these arguments are also arguments about how a term should be used. As such, they touch upon some of the foundational issues in meta-semantics, discussed in the recent literature on metalinguistic negotiations, conceptual ethics, and conceptual engineering. Against this background, we study official statements (of WHO, governments) and media reports to critically reconstruct the metalinguistic elements of the dispute over what a COVID-19 death is. We analyze in particular how epistemic and practical reasons are intertwined in nuanced and complex ways to produce an interesting type of metalinguistic interventions.