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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective TikTok is getting rid of pandemic-era perks including daily meal stipends for many employees, according to people familiar with the situation, as the company pushes staff to work more from its offices. Salvador Rodriguez, WSJ, 4 Aug. 2022 Taco Bell first dropped the long-standing item in 2020, amid a pandemic-era streamlining of its offerings. Emily Heil, Washington Post, 3 Aug. 2022 Despite the limited service at bookstores, despite the collective emotional trauma of the pandemic era, people turned to books for escape, reflection, and understanding. Amy Shoenthal, Forbes, 3 Aug. 2022 Stalter became the rare breakout star of the pandemic era, thanks in large part to her absurd character videos on Twitter and Instagram. Staff Report, USA TODAY, 3 Aug. 2022 Seemingly out of nowhere, the House just passed a bill that’s a huge win for the health tech industry — a two-year extension of pandemic-era telehealth flexibilities. Rachel Cohrs, STAT, 2 Aug. 2022 In June, Elon Musk, having grown fed up with the pandemic-era shift toward remote work, demanded that his employees spend forty hours a week in the Tesla office or risk expulsion. Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, 1 Aug. 2022 The pandemic era exacerbated a trend that started in mid-2018, when the advantage new graduates had enjoyed for almost three decades on the labor market reversed. Alex Tanzi / Bloomberg, Time, 30 July 2022 United was first to eliminate the pre-pandemic era draconian ticket change fees — if a passenger canceled a flight or wanted to change to a later one, the fee for changing that flight in many cases wiped out the value of the original ticket. Peter Greenberg, CBS News, 29 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Besides helping the needy, the event also was a way to support an industry decimated by the pandemic. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, 5 Aug. 2022 Double Standard was carved from the former home of Rosella at The Rand, an ambitious and stylish bistro laid low by the pandemic. Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, 4 Aug. 2022 The cost of construction materials and labor has skyrocketed because of supply-chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, so that means that the costs to rebuild your home may now exceed your policy limits. Robyn A. Friedman, WSJ, 4 Aug. 2022 Kentucky's brightest will be heading back to class after many years of setbacks by the pandemic. Caleb Stultz, The Courier-Journal, 4 Aug. 2022 The trial, which has three phases, is still underway, with earlier research efforts delayed by the pandemic. Katherine Hignett, Forbes, 4 Aug. 2022 Global supply chains have already been rattled by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Laura He And Cnn's Beijing Bureau, CNN, 3 Aug. 2022 The grant comes on top of an earlier $70 million in American Rescue Plan funding, which the state allocated to create CareerConneCT, a short-term training program aimed at workers displaced by the pandemic. Erica E. Phillips, Hartford Courant, 3 Aug. 2022 Her final tournament was the Olympics outside Tokyo last summer, which had no spectators after a one-year postponement caused by the pandemic. Doug Ferguson, ajc, 2 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of pandemic was in 1666

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Last Updated

6 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pandemic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for pandemic


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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