Pandemic Meaning: Here’s What It Means And How To Use It?

Not exactly sure what pandemic means? We’ll tell you. Read on as we explore the term pandemic to uncover what it means, synonyms, antonyms, and more.

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What Does Pandemic Mean?

The outbreak of COVID-19 that has been sweeping over the globe since 2020 has left many folks with concerns about the spread of this contagious disease. Among those worries is one underlying question — what exactly is a pandemic?

Defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a disease outbreak that has spread across multiple countries and continents, a pandemic comes when a disease affects the global population. It is also defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the “worldwide spread of a new disease.”

What Is the Origin of the Word Pandemic?

First recorded in the 1660s, the term pandemic comes from the Latin word pandemus, which is derived from the Greek pandēmos, pan- meaning “all, every, whole, all-inclusive,” which comes from PIE pant- meaning “all,” and dēmos, referring to “people.” 

The -ic part of pandemic is a word-forming element from Middle English -ike, -ick, or ique, that’s used for making adjectives.

What Are the Synonyms and Antonyms of Pandemic?

To help you better understand the meaning of pandemic, we’ve put together a list of synonyms as well as antonyms. Synonyms are words that mean the same thing as another word, whereas antonyms are words that are opposite in meaning to another. 


  • Widespread
  • Prevalent
  • Global
  • Universal
  • Worldwide
  • Cosmic
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Outbreak


  • Local
  • Specific
  • Rare
  • Uncommon
  • Narrow
  • Particular
  • Exclusive

How To Use the Term Pandemic in a Sentence

Now that you understand what pandemic means, let’s take a look at a few ways you can use the term in a sentence. Here are some example sentences:

“Now that the coronavirus disease has spread throughout the nation, people everywhere are wearing masks.”

“In the disease center, scientists are working very hard to ensure the world doesn’t see another viral pandemic.”

“The pandemic has killed millions of people in Europe.”

“To protect yourself from the current global pandemic, be sure to get the vaccine and wash your hands thoroughly with soap.”

“The public health officials developed a pandemic preparedness plan to try and prevent economic loss.”

“To boost population immunity to try and lessen the current pandemic potential, face-masks, vaccines, and social distancing are recommended precautions.” 

“A plague known as Black Death spread across Asia and Europe in the middle of the 14th century and is one of the most well-known pandemics next to COVID-19.”

“Since 1817, seven cholera pandemics have been recorded.”

Notable Past Pandemics

The coronavirus outbreak isn’t the only disease to have impacted the world on a global scale. In fact, there have been many notable pandemics that have had a serious effect on society in some way, shape, or form — here are a few of them:

  • 1346-1353 The Black Death – popularly known as the “Bubonic Plague,” this horrific outbreak was caused by a bacteria called Yersinia pestis and resulted in an estimated 25 million deaths across the world in the 14 century. 
  • 1918-1920 Flu Pandemic (H1N1 virus) – the 1918 influenza pandemic took the lives of millions all around the world. Also called the “Spanish Flu,” this viral pandemic was caused by an H1N1 virus that spread from birds to humans. 
  • 1957-1958 Asian Flu – this pandemic, which was a blend of bird flu (avian flu) viruses, started in China and eventually took the lives of more than one million people. 
  • 2002-2003 SARS-CoV – this pandemic involved a respiratory disease known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Spread through respiratory droplets, it lasted about 18 months before it slowly diminished. 
  • 2009 Swine Flu (H1N1pdm09 virus) – in 2009, the Swine Flu caused the deaths of up to 575,400 people around the world. Originating from pigs, this influenza pandemic eventually spread through human-to-human transmission. 

Other Definitions That You Should Know

While often used interchangeably, pandemic and epidemic have two different meanings. 

An epidemic can be defined as the spread of a disease in a region or community over a specific amount of time. They can vary based on the location of the illness, how much of the population has been exposed, and more. 

A pandemic, on the other hand, is a type of epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents and affects a large percent of the population. 

Here are a couple of other important definitions that are good to know:

  • Endemic – this is part of a group of terms used to describe the level, or amount, of a particular disease in a community. In other words, it describes the baseline or expected level of the disease. Malaria is an example of an endemic. This life-threatening disease doesn’t come and go — it stays around.  
  • Outbreak – this is when an illness happens in unexpected numbers. It can last days or years and may stay in one area or extend more widely. 


So, what does pandemic mean?

Simply put, a pandemic is a disease outbreak that spreads across countries or continents, affecting a large percentage of people. For example, the WHO declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic when it became clear that the illness was severe and spreading quickly over a wide area. 

While stopping a pandemic in its tracks is often easier said than done, there are many things we can do to try and slow the spread, such as getting vaccinated, practicing social distancing, and wearing a mask. Be sure to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and get tested if you’re not feeling well. 


  1. Principles of Epidemiology | CDC
  2. Epidemic, Endemic, Pandemic: What are the Differences? | Columbia Public Health
  3. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) | World Health Organization