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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 North Korea’s state media has recently said it’s intensifying and upgrading its anti-epidemic systems to guard against coronavirus subvariants and other diseases like monkeypox that are occurring in other countries. Fox News, 30 July 2022 But carjackings are up, and thefts from vehicles are epidemic. Courtland Milloy, Washington Post, 19 July 2022 Due to the lack of effective vaccines and treatments, the World Health Organization named CCHF as a top priority on a list of emerging pathogens with epidemic potential for which there are no medical treatments. William A. Haseltine, Forbes, 3 June 2022 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Previous emergencies include the H1N1 outbreak, the Zika virus, the opioid epidemic and Covid-19. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 5 Aug. 2022 The shape on the epidemic curve is a classic spike — sharply up, then sharply down. Paul Sisson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 Aug. 2022 Maybe the virus crosses over to the farmworkers but fizzles out because there’s not enough population density to sustain a human epidemic. Wired, 5 Aug. 2022 British health authorities said Friday the monkeypox outbreak across the country may be peaking and that the epidemic’s growth rate has slowed. Fox News, 5 Aug. 2022 Cybersecurity didn’t appear with the Covid-19 crisis or the ransomware epidemic, and doing the basics right can still provide a good degree of protection against threats and a good degree of compliance against regulations. Jc Gaillard, Forbes, 4 Aug. 2022 Overdose deaths in Alaska have risen as fentanyl has increasingly taken a toll in recent years, part of a national opioid epidemic that’s claimed thousands of lives. Annie Berman, Anchorage Daily News, 4 Aug. 2022 Six years later, a cholera epidemic reached Mexico after killing more than a thousand people in Peru. Allison Keeley, The New Yorker, 3 Aug. 2022 Environment and open lands reporter Bryan Maffly joins host Daedan Olander to discuss his reporting on a bark beetle epidemic that is killing Utah’s notoriously resilient bristlecone pines. Daedan Olander, The Salt Lake Tribune, 1 Aug. 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

Learn More About epidemic

Time Traveler for epidemic

Time Traveler

The first known use of epidemic was in 1603

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near epidemic



epidemic curve

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for epidemic

Last Updated

10 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Epidemic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epidemic. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

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


Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!