Commonly Confused Words: Epidemic, Endemic, Pandemic
August 28, 2017
It’s not hard to see why people confuse these words. They all deal with diseases, deal with boundaries, and end in “emic.” Epidemic and endemic are probably misused the most since they look and sound the most similar. We’ll walk you through their distinct meanings so you never embarrass yourself in scientific or political conversations again!
Epidemic: a disease that spreads out in a limited area
Endemic: a disease that occurs perennially among a certain people or in a certain area
Pandemic: a disease that spreads over a large region or possibly the entire world
Their Usage and Some Examples
Epidemic is often used as a noun but can be used as an adjective:
A flu epidemic broke out in the city.
(Used as a noun)
Skipping class has reached epidemic proportions at the high school.
(Used as an adjective. Note that the adjective meaning relates to the nature of an epidemic and doesn’t have to describe a disease)
Endemic always refers to a disease, not a region. A region cannot be endemic.
Yellow Fever is endemic to some parts of South America
Pandemic will always deal with a vast area.
In the novel, a new plague pandemic wiped out half the world’s population
The meanings of these words haven’t really changed over the years, so there’s no scandalous etymology to be found here. Sorry, maybe next time.