Definition of epidemic in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌepəˈdemik/


1A widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time: a flu epidemic
More example sentences
  • The hugely controversial contiguous cull of livestock to combat the foot-and-mouth epidemic was stoutly defended by the Government.
  • The current cholera epidemic sweeping the nation needs the urgent attention of both authorities and the affected communities.
  • I remembered hearing about the cholera epidemic which had struck just before I was born.
outbreak, plague, pandemic, epizootic
1.1A disease occurring in such a way.
Example sentences
  • Rest assured that only on rare occasions do epidemics such as bubonic plague in India and diphtheria in Russia present a much more widespread threat.
  • He likened Aids to epidemics such as the bubonic plague, leprosy and smallpox, which ravaged parts of the world in previous historical epochs.
  • This neglect contributes to the emergence of public health crises, including epidemics like HIV, hepatitis, and drug-resistant tuberculosis.
1.2A sudden, widespread occurrence of a particular undesirable phenomenon: an epidemic of violent crime
More example sentences
  • Hunger and oppression have spawned an epidemic of violent crime.
  • I do not mean that the recent phenomenon of substance abuse epidemics and passive welfare has turned good health into bad.
  • We have a sudden epidemic of obesity that has emerged over the past 15 years.
spate, rash, wave, eruption, outbreak, craze;
flood, torrent;
upsurge, upturn, increase, growth, rise


Relating to or of the nature of an epidemic: shoplifting has reached epidemic proportions Compare with endemic, pandemic, epizootic.
More example sentences
  • Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that has reached epidemic proportions.
  • HIV has reached epidemic proportions in India.
  • Although Type 2 diabetes mellitus appears in almost epidemic proportions our knowledge of the mechanism of this disease is limited.
rife, rampant, widespread, wide-ranging, extensive, pervasive;
global, universal, ubiquitous;
endemic, pandemic, epizootic


A disease that quickly and severely affects a large number of people and then subsides is an epidemic: throughout the Middle Ages, successive epidemics of the plague killed millions. Epidemic is also used as an adjective: she studied the causes of epidemic cholera. A disease that is continually present in an area and affects a relatively small number of people is endemic: malaria is endemic in (or to) hot, moist climates. A pandemic is a widespread epidemic that may affect entire continents or even the world: the pandemic of 1918 ushered in a period of frequent epidemics of gradually diminishing severity. Thus, from an epidemiologist’s point of view, the Black Death in Europe and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are pandemics rather than epidemics.


Early 17th century (as an adjective): from French épidémique, from épidémie, via late Latin from Greek epidēmia 'prevalence of disease', from epidēmios 'prevalent', from epi 'upon' + dēmos 'the people'.

  • democracy from late 16th century:

    The word democracy came directly from French in the mid 16th century, but goes back to Greek dēmokratia, from dēmos ‘the people’ and kratia ‘power, rule’. Demos is also the source of demagogue (mid 17th century) where it is combined with agōgos ‘leading’, and epidemic (early 17th century) which comes from epidēmia ‘the prevalence of disease’ which goes back to epi ‘upon’ and dēmos ‘the people’.

Words that rhyme with epidemic

academic, alchemic, endemic, pandemic, polemic, totemic

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ep·i·dem·ic

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