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

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 This economic oddity is largely due to unemployment benefits and three rounds of stimulus checks, which averaged about $30 per day per household above pre-pandemic levels. Casey B. Mulligan, National Review, 11 Jan. 2022 Notwithstanding the Great Resignation in advanced economies, global employment lags behind its pre-pandemic levels. Saadia Zahidi, Time, 11 Jan. 2022 Göteborg will screen around 200 films this year, way down from its 350-plus pre-pandemic levels. John Hopewell, Variety, 11 Jan. 2022 Gasoline consumption did not return to 2019 levels until October, while demand for jet fuel remains well below pre-pandemic levels. New York Times, 10 Jan. 2022 The other major factor was transportation emissions, mostly from long-haul diesel trucking, rising 10%, as freight nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels and are likely to continue to rise, Larsen said. Seth Borenstein, Chron, 10 Jan. 2022 Over the long term, U.S. coal use has declined significantly and overall, greenhouse gas emissions from all sources are still below pre-pandemic levels. Nicole Goodkind, Fortune, 10 Jan. 2022 Ridership on the rail system remains at less than 20 percent of pre-pandemic levels, a number that has changed little in recent months. Washington Post, 8 Jan. 2022 The market is still down by 3.6 million jobs from its pre-pandemic levels in February 2020, but gained back some 6.4 million jobs on the year. Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 8 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Staffing agencies, which have been a lifeline (albeit an expensive one) for hospitals during the pandemic, are also running low on nurses to deploy, Meatley said. Eric Boodman And Isabella Cueto, STAT, 14 Jan. 2022 The report, which is expected to be publicly released on Monday, is likely to renew criticism of the Democratic governor's performance during the pandemic. Andrew Murray, Fox News, 14 Jan. 2022 Last November, the agency warned about the increase in bogus COVID tests, vaccines and treatments during the pandemic. Brett Molina, USA TODAY, 13 Jan. 2022 Nation/World Student enrollment at colleges fell once again in the fall, a new report has found, prompting some to worry whether the declines experienced during the pandemic could become an enduring trend. Danielle Douglas-gabriel, Anchorage Daily News, 13 Jan. 2022 To limit capacity during the pandemic, some museums are requiring that people reserve tickets in advance. Domenica Bongiovanni, The Indianapolis Star, 13 Jan. 2022 That’s the highest 21-day average at any point during the pandemic, ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said during a news briefing. Evan Macdonald, cleveland, 13 Jan. 2022 In promoting the movie in recent days via an appearance on The View, Milano added that Brazen was filmed during the pandemic. Andy Meek, BGR, 13 Jan. 2022 The location had suffered from a drop in foot traffic during the pandemic and shuttered on a temporary basis last fall. Christina Tkacik,, 13 Jan. 2022

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

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The first known use of pandemic was in 1666

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Last Updated

14 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pandemic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for pandemic



English Language Learners Definition of pandemic

: 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 | \ ˌpan-ˈde-mik \

Kids Definition of pandemic

: an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects many people


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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