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 There's no denying the pandemic changed style for good—comfort is king, and constrictive clothing and impractical footwear has slowly shifted to the back of our closets. Erin Parker, Glamour, "15 Best Lug Sole Boots for Winter-Ready Edge," 6 Jan. 2021 An international team of experts had been due to visit the central city of Wuhan in January, where the pandemic first appeared a year ago. NBC News, "Covid live updates: Latest on vaccine distribution and rising U.S. Covid cases," 6 Jan. 2021 More pandemic disappointment in the United Kingdom: There will be no chance of tea with the queen in her gardens this summer, Buckingham Palace announced Tuesday. Maria Puente, USA TODAY, "Palace cancels 2021 royal garden parties with Queen Elizabeth II due to new lockdown," 6 Jan. 2021 There’s a lot to unpack in the photos of Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde hand in hand and attending a small, supposedly pandemic-safe California wedding. Dina Gachman, Vogue, "Please Let 2021 Be the Year of the Hotel Bathrobe," 6 Jan. 2021 Gear to safely make it through a pandemic winter Facial hair is biologically useless. Angela Watercutter, Wired, "These Are the 17 Must-Watch TV Shows of 2021," 6 Jan. 2021 Yet millions of Americans traveled anyway -- with more than 1.3 million people -- a pandemic record -- screened by the TSA on Sunday alone. Christina Maxouris, CNN, "Hospitals are already overwhelmed. Now some states are beginning to feel the impact of holiday gatherings," 5 Jan. 2021 Westchester was still a pandemic hot spot and there could be no congregating, even outside. Ann Patchett, Harper's Magazine, "These Precious Days," 5 Jan. 2021 The nation's smallest state by area has reported 1,855 pandemic deaths so far, far fewer than many states but giving Rhode Island the nation's sixth highest COVID-19 death rate. David Klepper,, "This is why Rhode Island — the smallest state — has a big coronavirus challenge," 5 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For travelers, the COVID-19 pandemic crowds out many other considerations. Scott Mcmurren, Anchorage Daily News, "As vaccine rollout offers hope for a return to normal, bargain airfares beckon to willing travelers," 9 Jan. 2021 The coronavirus vaccines, which are about 95% effective, have the power to end the pandemic if enough people take them. Emily Woodruff,, "Requiring the coronavirus vaccine would help businesses, schools get back to normal. But will they mandate it?," 9 Jan. 2021 Oakland interim Police Chief Susan Manheimer laid much of the blame on the pandemic and its ripple effects on public safety. Megan Cassidy,, "A violent year: Bay Area killings spiked 35% in 2020," 9 Jan. 2021 The polling determined that three issues particularly connected with Georgia Latinos: the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about jobs and President Donald Trump’s 2018 policy of separating children from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Gilbert Garcia,, "Garcia: San Antonio strategist helped Ossoff reach Latino voters in Georgia," 9 Jan. 2021 The legislature plans on holding daily floor sessions in April at the earliest as the pandemic permits. Tim Gruver, Washington Examiner, "Oregon legislator accused of assisting invasion of state Capitol building," 8 Jan. 2021 In light of the continuing out-of-control COVID-19 pandemic, the Ashanti/Keyshia Cole Verzuz battle has been postponed once again. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, "Ashanti & Keyshia Cole 'Verzuz' Battle Postponed Again," 8 Jan. 2021 That advice has been a constant refrain in a pandemic responsible for more than 350,000 deaths in the United States., "US tops 4,000 coronavirus deaths in a day for the first time," 8 Jan. 2021 For American audiences, the decision offers flexibility and positions in-house streaming services as a viable distribution mechanism, a trend that predates the pandemic but has accelerated. Lindsey Mcginnis, The Christian Science Monitor, "How will Warner Bros. streaming impact moviegoing? Three questions.," 8 Jan. 2021

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

14 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pandemic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

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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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