pan·​dem·​ic | \ pan-ˈde-mik How to pronounce pandemic (audio) \

Definition of pandemic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : occurring over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affecting a significant proportion of the population pandemic malaria The 1918 flu was pandemic and claimed millions of lives.
2 : characterized by very widespread growth or extent : epidemic entry 1 sense 3 a problem of pandemic proportions


plural pandemics

Definition of pandemic (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the population : a pandemic outbreak of a disease a global pandemic Influenza pandemics seem to strike every few decades and to kill by the million—at least 1m in 1968; perhaps 100m in the "Spanish" flu of 1918-19.The Economist
2 : an outbreak or product of sudden rapid spread, growth, or development : epidemic entry 2 sense 2 We have been talking about the pandemic of racism for centuries.— Roger Griffith Nobel-prize winning economist Robert Shiller warns a pandemic of fear could tip the economy into an undeserved depression.— Stephanie Landsman

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Frequently Asked Questions About pandemic

What is the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic?

An epidemic is an outbreak of disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time. A pandemic is a kind of epidemic: one which has spread across a wider geographic range than an epidemic, and which has affected a significant portion of the population.

When does an outbreak become a pandemic?

An outbreak is “a sudden rise in the incidence of a disease” and typically is confined to a localized area or a specific group of people. Should an outbreak become more severe, and less localized, it may be characterized as an epidemic. If it broadens still further, and affects a significant portion of the population, the disease may be characterized as a pandemic.

What are some examples of pandemics?

There have been a number of pandemics since the beginning of the 20th century: the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, the Spanish flu of 1918/19 (which did not originate in Spain), as well as flu pandemics in 1957 and 1968, and now the COVID-19 pandemic of 2019/20. Among the best known pandemics is the Black Death, a plague which spread across Asia and Europe in the middle of the 14th century.

Examples of pandemic in a Sentence

Noun … globalization, the most thoroughgoing socioeconomic upheaval since the Industrial Revolution, which has set off a pandemic of retrogressive nationalism, regional separatism, and religious extremism. — Martin Filler, New York Review of Books, 24 Sept. 2009 … it also hopes to utilize this cultural investigation to better understand strategies to reduce the massive pandemic we now understand cigarette smoking to produce. — Allan M. Brandt, The Cigarette Century, 2007 There is evidence that this gambling pandemic is going global. — Gerri Hirshey, New York Times Magazine, 17 July 1994 In ten years that it raged, this pandemic took or ravaged the lives of nearly five million people before it disappeared, as mysteriously and suddenly as it had arrived, in 1927. — Oliver Sacks, Awakenings, 1973 The 1918 flu pandemic claimed millions of lives.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Many small businesses that rely on 3-D printers, such as dental labs, saw revenue wither during pandemic lockdowns, but were able to pivot to manufacturing personal protective equipment and other vital gear. John D. Stoll, WSJ, "These Firms Are in No Rush to Say ‘Made in the U.S.A.’," 23 Oct. 2020 Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, fencing competitions were called off a couple of days before the Anaheim Foil Grand Prix in March, though the International Fencing Federation has announced that competitions will resume from 1 January 2021. Celine Ramseyer, CNN, "Olympic fencer Ysaora Thibus: 'I'm an athlete, but first I'm a woman, I'm a Black woman'," 22 Oct. 2020 Netflix tumbled in late trading after its results and outlook both missed Wall Street estimates, renewing doubts about its ability to maintain growth as pandemic lockdowns go away. Lucas Shaw, Fortune, "Netflix’s pandemic growth slows, sending shares tumbling," 20 Oct. 2020 Badly affected countries such as the UK, which received warnings that its pandemic preparedness wasn’t up to scratch years ago, should sit up and take note. Maru Mormina, Quartz Africa, "What developing countries can teach rich countries about how to respond to a pandemic," 19 Oct. 2020 Charities have estimated that 35,000 extra deaths next year could occur as a direct result of pandemic lockdowns. Andrew Mark Miller, Washington Examiner, "Mother, 31, dies of cancer after chemotherapy was paused due to lockdowns," 18 Oct. 2020 The Colorado school district where Yenne works offers in-person and online classes simultaneously, with one teacher responsible for both as the Covid-19 pandemic touches every facet of education. Safia Samee Ali, NBC News, "Educators teaching online and in person at the same time feel burned out," 18 Oct. 2020 Hudson helmed the pre-pandemic recording sessions at studios in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Jon Bream, Star Tribune, "Badfinger's Joey Molland makes a solo album with a little help from his Beatle-y friends," 16 Oct. 2020 In 2020, another seatbelt bill died, not because of votes, but for another reason: The pandemic shutdown legislative sessions. Christine Hauser, New York Times, "In Fights Over Face Masks, Echoes of the American Seatbelt Wars," 15 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Employees within the agency cite low morale due to the pandemic and media coverage about the Trump administration's response to the health crisis and policies have made the department an increasingly challenging place to work. Mica Soellner, Washington Examiner, "HHS preparing for 'mass exodus' of staff if Trump loses reelection bid," 26 Oct. 2020 Despite the pandemic and challenges including heavy taxes and regulation, marijuana sales are climbing. Michael R. Blood, Anchorage Daily News, "Election could broaden the US marijuana market and sway federal policies," 26 Oct. 2020 Like other states, Virginia has debated the degree to which the economy and society should be open as the pandemic stretches on, and the coronavirus response has been a key issue in the presidential campaign. Matthew Barakat, Star Tribune, "Poll: Virginia voters say virus, not economy, most important," 26 Oct. 2020 Local authorities have introduced a range of new restrictions and curfews after the pandemic made a strong resurgence this month. Carolynn Look,, "German Businesses Lose Faith in Recovery as Virus Spreads," 26 Oct. 2020 Two of the charter amendments -- Issue 20 and 22 -- are tied directly to life in 2020 where the pandemic found city council meeting electronically for the majority of the year. John Benson, cleveland, "Voters to decide Fairview Park City School District new money levy and North Olmsted charter amendments," 26 Oct. 2020 That strategy appeared to pay off as the outbreak in Pence's staff refocused the national conversation once again on the pandemic. Arkansas Online, "Trump charges into battleground states despite rising virus," 26 Oct. 2020 The seven-day average of new cases has been creeping closer to the previous peak of the pandemic of 67,200 cases on July 22. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "US hits highest 7-day average of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began," 26 Oct. 2020 Time is running out to prepare for the next pandemic. Kirti Shanker, National Review, "Reimagining America’s Infectious-Disease Defense," 26 Oct. 2020

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

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First Known Use of pandemic


1666, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1832, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pandemic


Greek pándēmos "of all the people, public, common, (of diseases) widespread (in galen)" (from pan- pan- + -dēmos, adjective derivative of dêmos "district, country, people") + -ic entry 1 — more at demo-


noun derivative of pandemic entry 1, after epidemic entry 2

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Time Traveler for pandemic

Time Traveler

The first known use of pandemic was in 1666

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Statistics for pandemic

Last Updated

28 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pandemic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for pandemic



English Language Learners Definition of pandemic

medical : an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area or throughout the world


pan·​dem·​ic | \ pan-ˈdem-ik How to pronounce pandemic (audio) \

Medical Definition of pandemic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: occurring over a wide geographic area (as multiple countries or continents) and typically affecting a significant proportion of the population pandemic malaria pandemic influenza



Medical Definition of pandemic (Entry 2 of 2)

: an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the population : a pandemic outbreak of a disease

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