Remember the 2009 swine flu? That was a pandemic — an illness that swept over much of the globe.

People fear pandemics, and with good reason. The black plague that ran through Asia and Europe in the 1300s is believed to have killed as much as half of Europe's population, between 75 and 100 million folks. The word comes from ancient Greek — pan (meaning "all") and demos (meaning "people"), or simply put — all the people. Of course, people across the globe suffer from the seasonal flu, and many die from it. But it isn't considered a pandemic because it is generally harmless to the healthy.

Definitions of pandemic
  1. adjective
    existing everywhere
    pandemic fear of nuclear war”
    applying to all or most members of a category or group
  2. adjective
    epidemic over a wide geographical area
    “a pandemic outbreak of malaria”
    (especially of medicine) of disease or anything resembling a disease; attacking or affecting many individuals in a community or a population simultaneously
  3. noun
    an epidemic that is geographically widespread; occurring throughout a region or even throughout the world
    see moresee less
    type of:
    a widespread outbreak of an infectious disease; many people are infected at the same time
Commonly confused words

epidemic / pandemic

A pandemic is like an epidemic on steroids. Both are words for a widespread disease, but a pandemic can spread across continents, while an epidemic affects a smaller population. An epidemic disease can originate in one area but grow to be a pandemic as it infects people all over the world.

Continue reading...

Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week