ep·​i·​dem·​ic | \ ˌe-pə-ˈde-mik How to pronounce epidemic (audio) \

Definition of epidemic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time typhoid was epidemic
2a : excessively prevalent
b : contagious sense 4 epidemic laughter
3 : characterized by very widespread growth or extent : of, relating to, or constituting an epidemic the practice had reached epidemic proportions


ep·​i·​dem·​ic | \ ˌe-pə-ˈde-mik How to pronounce epidemic (audio) \

Definition of epidemic (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an outbreak of disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time : an outbreak of epidemic disease
2 : an outbreak or product of sudden rapid spread, growth, or development an epidemic of bankruptcies

Other Words from epidemic


epidemical \ ˌe-​pə-​ˈde-​mi-​kəl How to pronounce epidemic (audio) \ adjective
epidemically \ ˌe-​pə-​ˈde-​mi-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce epidemic (audio) \ adverb
epidemicity \ ˌe-​pə-​də-​ˈmi-​sə-​tē How to pronounce epidemic (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for epidemic

Synonyms: Adjective

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Examples of epidemic in a Sentence

Adjective Overuse injuries—particularly in the elbows and shoulders of young pitchers—are indeed becoming epidemic. Orthopedists often blame coaches and parents for failing to monitor how many pitches kids are throwing and for not giving them time to rest their arms. — Sara Corbett, New York Times Sports Magazine, June 2006 The dream of running off to live the good life in a postcard perfect town in the mountains or by the sea often reaches epidemic proportions near the end of summer. — John Rasmus, National Geographic, September 2004 Saturday Night Fever propelled disco fever to epidemic proportions: By 1978, 40 percent of all the music on Billboard's Hot 100 was disco. — Peter Braunstein, American Heritage, November 1999 the little girl's giggles were epidemic, and soon the entire gathering was laughing Noun Cosmetic surgery is now so prevalent that it could qualify as a national epidemic. — Toni Bentley, New York Times Book Review, 22 Oct. 2006 "Spim," as people are beginning to call unsolicited instant messages, is the latest installment in the growing epidemic of unwanted electronic ads and a further sign that unscrupulous online marketers will seek to take advantage of all of the Internet's communication tools, not limiting themselves to spam or pop-up ads. — David McGuire, WashingtonPost.com, 13 Nov. 2003 Whatever might have motivated Kennedy to put [Ian] Fleming on his list, from that point, Bond became an international obsession. When the first Bond film appeared in 1962—Dr. No—the obsession was a full-blown craze, a cultural epidemic. — Gerald Early, New Letters, 1999 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Across the country, cities are imposing anti-epidemic restrictions, and households are hoarding supplies, fearing they will be locked down next. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, 18 Apr. 2022 Though Beijing’s virus outbreak is tiny by global standards, the Chinese capital is tightening anti-epidemic measures ahead of the Olympic opening ceremony Feb. 4. NBC News, 31 Jan. 2022 Global stock markets have also sunk as investors face up to the reality of a return to pre-epidemic monetary policy. Billy Bambrough, Forbes, 29 Jan. 2022 While the officials agreed to ease some anti-epidemic measures, including revoking a weekend curfew and opening government offices, schools will remain shut. Rhea Mogul And Vedika Sud, CNN, 27 Jan. 2022 Power abuses are epidemic in an industry where employment is contingent and hard to obtain and much of the workforce is in the first bloom of youth. Vogue, 4 Nov. 2021 Across more than 300 reservations populated by the nation's Native Americans, violence against women has become epidemic. Jeff Truesdell, PEOPLE.com, 25 Aug. 2021 The reference indicated Kim may replace his Cabinet Premier Kim Tok Hun, who would be held responsible for failures in the government’s anti-epidemic work, said Hong Min, a senior analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification. Time, 30 June 2021 And many more children died in the early years of life, some from epidemic infectious diseases such as smallpox and diphtheria, or from complications that followed routine infections such as pneumonia after measles. Perri Klass, Harper's Magazine, 25 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This celebration of lives lost to the epidemic is told through free-verse monologues and songs with a blues, jazz and rock score. Luann Gibbs, The Enquirer, 15 May 2022 At a meeting Saturday, Kim inspected the country's emergency epidemic measures and medical supplies. Nectar Gan, Gawon Bae And Helen Regan, CNN, 14 May 2022 Such cases fuel Maryland’s drug addiction epidemic, Barron added. Ngan Ho, Baltimore Sun, 13 May 2022 Widespread malnourishment and a fractured healthcare system mean the country is particularly vulnerable to a respiratory epidemic. Dasl Yoon, WSJ, 13 May 2022 The country has poor medical infrastructure; a 2021 index assessing the epidemic and pandemic preparedness of 195 countries ranked North Korea at 193rd. Time, 13 May 2022 The latest numbers set another tragic record in the nation’s escalating overdose epidemic. Los Angeles Times, 11 May 2022 Recent settlements with prescription opioid manufacturers and distributors will soon bring new resources to states battling the overdose epidemic. New York Times, 11 May 2022 The nation’s drug overdose epidemic worsened in 2021 with deaths surpassing 100,000 during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY, 11 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'epidemic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of epidemic


1603, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1757, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for epidemic


borrowed from French épidémique, going back to Middle French, from epidemie "disease affecting a large number of individuals" + -ique -ic entry 1; Middle French epidemie, earlier epydimie, borrowed from Medieval Latin epidēmia, derivative (from feminine singular or neuter plural) of Late Latin epidēmius "widespread, prevalent (of a disease)," borrowed from Greek epidḗmios "within the country, among the people, prevalent (of a disease)," from epi- epi- + -dēmios, adjective derivative of dêmos "district, country, people" — more at demo-

Note: The notion that the word epidemic (adjective or noun) is owed directly to Hippocrates—or is, to put it more circumspectly, part of the Hippocratic Corpus—is somewhat illusory, a product of the words used in English translations. For example, in W. H. S. Jones' translation of De aere aquis et locis (Loeb Classical Library, 1923), the following passage (4.32-34) implies a distinction between "endemic" and "epidemic": "For men these diseases are endemic, besides there are epidemic diseases which may prevail through the change of the seasons." In the Greek text, however, "endemic diseases" are nosḗmata epichōría "illnesses of the country, native illnesses," while "epidemic diseases" translates ti pánkoinon, literally, "something common," i.e., "common or general diseases." Derivatives based on epi- and dêmos can be found in the Hippocratic texts (e.g., "Kaì gàr állōs tò nósēma epídēmon ên," Epidemics 1.14; "Tà mèn epidēmḗsanta nosḗmata taûta," Epidemics 3.3), though epídēmon means simply "common, prevalent," and epidēmḗsanta "having become prevalent." The title Epidḗmia, conventionally translated "Epidemics," for the works in the Hippocratic Corpus dealing with seasonal diseases and case histories, is presumably post-classical.


noun derivative of epidemic entry 1

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Time Traveler for epidemic

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The first known use of epidemic was in 1603

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epidemic curve

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Last Updated

24 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Epidemic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epidemic. Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for epidemic


ep·​i·​dem·​ic | \ ˌe-pə-ˈde-mik How to pronounce epidemic (audio) \

Kids Definition of epidemic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a rapidly spreading outbreak of disease
2 : something harmful that spreads or develops rapidly a crime epidemic



Kids Definition of epidemic (Entry 2 of 2)

: spreading widely and affecting many people at the same time an epidemic disease


ep·​i·​dem·​ic | \ ˌep-ə-ˈdem-ik How to pronounce epidemic (audio) \
variants: also epidemical \ -​i-​kəl How to pronounce epidemic (audio) \

Medical Definition of epidemic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : affecting or tending to affect an atypically large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time typhoid was epidemic — compare endemic, sporadic sense 1
2 : of, relating to, or constituting an epidemic coronary disease … has hit epidemic proportions— Herbert Ratner

Other Words from epidemic

epidemically \ -​i-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce epidemic (audio) \ adverb



Medical Definition of epidemic (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an outbreak of epidemic disease
2 : a natural population (as of insects) suddenly and greatly enlarged

More from Merriam-Webster on epidemic

Nglish: Translation of epidemic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of epidemic for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about epidemic


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