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Endemic vs. Epidemic

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips

If you are a researcher for the World Health Organization, you will need to know how to describe the various diseases and populations that you study. Two words that describe diseases, endemic and epidemic, may seem similar, but they are actually two different words with separate meanings. To make matters even more confusing, both of these words can be used as multiple parts of speech. Still, if you want to maintain your credibility as one of the globe’s foremost authorities on human health and wellness, you will need to know how to use these words appropriately.


The word endemic originated in mid-17th century (as a noun): from French endémique or modern Latin endemicus, from Greek endēmios ‘native’ (based on dēmos ‘people’).

Endemic as noun:

Endemic is used as a noun in English language where it refers to an endemic plant or animal.

There are three types of island endemics.

Endemic as adjective:

Endemic is also used as a verb which means to regularly find a disease or condition among particular people or in a certain area.

Complacency is endemic in industry today.

A plant or animal native or restricted to a certain place is also known as endemic.

A marsupial endemic to north-eastern Australia no longer exist.

Epidemic as noun:

Epidemic is used as a noun which means a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.

A flu epidemic broke in Sahara.

Epidemic as adjective:

Epidemic as an adjective refers to something that is of the nature of an epidemic.

Shoplifting has reached epidemic proportions.


United Nations teams in Haiti believe that the cholera epidemic’s official numbers of 1,800 deaths and nearly 81,000 people infected could be double that because of difficulties in reporting.  [NY Times]

Of Africa’s 10 endemic mainland bird families, eight are represented in Ethiopia. [Ethiopia and Eritrea]

Total mortality in the epidemic may have been as high as one-third of the population of Japan, with some areas experiencing a staggering mortality rate of 60 percent. [Epidemics and Pandemics]

If he insists on picking hotels where that type of poolside behaviour is endemic, the rest of us will only chuckle at his discomfort. [letter to Financial Times]

New research suggests a hidden epidemic of suicide among younger women with military service. [Medical News Today]

Qidong City, China, has had high liver cancer incidence from endemic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and dietary exposure to aflatoxin. [Carcinogenesis]

Endemic or epidemic:

Both endemic and epidemic can be used as adjectives and nouns. Endemic describes a disease or condition that is regularly found among particular people or in a certain area. Epidemic describes a disease that spreads rapidly or the quality of spreading rapidly. The words epidemic and rapid are both spelled with the letter P, so choosing epidemic to describe something that spreads rapidly should be a simple matter. Careful word choice can often make the difference between strong writing and an embarrassing blunder.

Be sure to check this site any time you have questions about confusing words, and if you get stuck choosing epidemic or endemic, check back with this article.

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