Also ep·i·dem·i·cal. (of a disease) affecting many persons at the same time, and spreading from person to person in a locality where the disease is not permanently prevalent.
extremely prevalent; widespread.


a temporary prevalence of a disease.
a rapid spread or increase in the occurrence of something: an epidemic of riots.

Origin of epidemic

1595–1605; obsolete epidem(y) (< Late Latin epidēmia < Greek epidēmía staying in one place, among the people, equivalent to epi- epi- + dêm(os) people of a district + -ia -y3) + -ic
Related formsep·i·dem·i·cal·ly, adverbep·i·de·mic·i·ty [ep-i-duh-mis-i-tee] /ˌɛp ɪ dəˈmɪs ɪ ti/, nounin·ter·ep·i·dem·ic, adjectivepre·ep·i·dem·ic, noun, adjective
Can be confusedendemic epidemic pandemic
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for epidemic

Contemporary Examples of epidemic

Historical Examples of epidemic

  • Then, too, when our artist friend was with us we were in the grasp of an epidemic of cholera.

    Lotus Buds

    Amy Carmichael

  • The antibody could be synthesized and one could attack any epidemic with confidence.

    Pariah Planet

    Murray Leinster

  • Only fallin' in love is kind of epidemic down at the boardin' house, I guess.

    Cy Whittaker's Place

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • Not a Moon man, on the other hand, had survived the epidemic.

  • Their expenses were enlarged, as were those of the other families, by an epidemic of smallpox.

    The Negro Farmer

    Carl Kelsey

British Dictionary definitions for epidemic



(esp of a disease) attacking or affecting many persons simultaneously in a community or area


a widespread occurrence of a diseasean influenza epidemic
a rapid development, spread, or growth of something, esp something unpleasantan epidemic of strikes
Derived Formsepidemically, adverb

Word Origin for epidemic

C17: from French épidémique, via Late Latin from Greek epidēmia literally: among the people, from epi- + dēmos people
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for epidemic

c.1600, from French épidémique, from épidemié "an epidemic disease," from Medieval Latin epidemia, from Greek epidemia "prevalence of an epidemic disease" (especially the plague), from epi "among, upon" (see epi-) + demos "people, district" (see demotic).


1757, from epidemic (adj.); earlier epideme (see epidemy). An Old English noun for this (persisting in Middle English) was man-cwealm.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for epidemic




Spreading rapidly and extensively by infection and affecting many individuals in an area or population at the same time, as of a disease or illness.


An outbreak or unusually high occurrence of a disease or illness in a population or area.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for epidemic



An outbreak of a disease or illness that spreads rapidly among individuals in an area or population at the same time. See also endemic pandemic.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for epidemic


A contagious disease that spreads rapidly and widely among the population in an area. Immunization and quarantine are two of the methods used to control an epidemic.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.