Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Endemic


The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is endemic. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Endemic means “growing or existing in a certain place or region.” It can also mean “common in a particular area or field.”

// Our children were excited to finally see wild giant pandas—endemic to just three provinces in south-central China—during our family vacation.

// Although he discovered that low wages were endemic to his line of work, he continued to pursue his passion.

ENDEMIC in Context

“Scientists have also documented the presence of Galapagos rails, known locally as pachays, an endemic bird never before reported on this island, on the upper part of Pinzon Island.” — Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 15 Dec. 2022

Did You Know?

Ever wonder how endemic ended up in the English language? Endemic made its way into English via French and New Latin and likely has its ultimate origin in the Greek adjective éndēmos, a word with multiple uses, among which is one describing a disease confined to one area. Éndēmos was formed from en- ( “in”) and a form of the noun dêmos, meaning “district, country, people.” That word was also key to the formation of the earlier word on which éndēmos was modeled: epidēmia, meaning “disease affecting a large number of individuals.” English adopted epidemic (also via French) in the early 17th century, but endemic didn’t become, uh, endemic until a century and a half later. (The now too-familiar relation pandemic slipped into the language in the mid 17th.) In current use, endemic characterizes diseases that are generally found in a particular area—malaria, for example, is said to be endemic to tropical and subtropical regions—while epidemic indicates a sudden, severe outbreak within that region or group. Endemic is also used by biologists to characterize plant and animal species that are found only in a given area.

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