A pandemic is an epidemic that spreads internationally. My friend said that COVID-19 is a global pandemic. Isn't saying that coronavirus is a pandemic already indicative that it is global? Is "global" redundant?

  • The language is full of pleonasms, from my very own to whether or not, revert back to join together. Have a chai tea and sleep a good sleep and don't worry too much about it.
    – choster
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 15:29
  • @choster What do you mean?
    – Marvin
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 16:38
  • 1
    I'm asking why you care whether there is a redundancy or not. There are boatloads of redundant expressions in English, from free gift to advance warning to safe haven,.which are completely idiomatic.
    – choster
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 18:04
  • My point is that being redundant does not necessarily make something ungrammatical, or even inelegant. Sometimes they make something unnecessarily wordy or awkward, but it's still perfectly correct and idiomatic to say things like ask a question or written down or temper tantrum, and if anything it may be more correct to say false pretenses or general public in some situations as those have legal implications. Most entries on most lists of "redundant" phrases to avoid I find to be absolute trash, and that is an actual fact.
    – choster
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 0:43

2 Answers 2


Not redundant. Every definition of pandemic that I’ve read specifies that the word is used when referring to widespread diseases and not just global ones. For example, see Wikipedia’s definition.

Disease travels a lot faster and further than it did before, because people do, so I’m not sure how many more non-global pandemics we will have. The Black Plague is a good example of a pandemic that was not global, due to the Americas not being known to Europe:

The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia and peaking in Eurasia from 1331 to 1353. Its migration followed the sea and land trading routes of the medieval world.

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    Even today, we could have a pandemic that wasn't global, if for instance the disease vector was an insect that couldn't survive in cold climates. As with malaria.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 18:27
  • >A pandemic (from Greek πᾶν pan "all" and δῆμος demos "people") is a disease epidemic that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents, or worldwide. ... A pandemic is an epidemic occurring on a scale that crosses international boundaries, usually affecting a large number of people.
    – Mazura
    Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 20:18
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    @Mazura Which means that with the literal meaning of pan, "global" would be implied (in contrast, "disease" would not be implied!). It is just the case that the technical definition of pandemic does not follow the etymology literally Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 21:55
  • I see a lot of people refering to the historical context. But in this situation the word must be changing. WHO did not use the word until it was global. Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 8:48

In my opinion, it is redundant but somewhat necessary to inform the general population. The word "pandemic" describes the outbreak of a disease which already has (or is very close to) affect every community in the world.
To understand the glossary better, you have to look at the endemic and epidemic as well. Endemic describes the outbreak of a disease inside a single community that can be a neighborhood, city, country, etc. Epidemic describes the widespread outbreak of a disease affecting multiple communities that can be multiple cities, provinces, countries, etc.
A pandemic is just an epidemic that has spread wide enough to affect (or potentially affect) every community in the world. So, if an epidemic has not reached a global level, it would still remain an epidemic and if you need to call an outbreak pandemic, it is a global event. Hence, "global" is redundant.
For instance, the Coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic by WHO only when there was a meaningful outbreak in all 5 continents.
However, since such technical medical words are not very meaningful to the population, calling pandemic a "global pandemic" is a necessary redundancy to inform the population about the magnitude of the disease that may endanger them.

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