In a podcast, the host used the expression 'to eradicate a pandemic' a lot. For instance he said 'Which disease was eradicated in 1977?'

When I was talking about this episode of the podcast, I tried to paraphrase 'to eradicate a pandemic'. There is no alternative for 'eradicate' in Cambridge Thesaurus online; however, Oxford Mini Thesaurus suggests 'eliminate'. I looked up examplary sentences with 'eliminate' on both OALD and Cambridge Dictionary online and I'm not sure whether I can use it instead of 'eradicate'. My questions are first is it correct to write 'to eliminate a pandemic' in the context given; second, are there any better alternatives to paraphrase?

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    A pandemic is an event. You can end a pandemic, but not eradicate one. You eradicate a disease, or a population, not an event.
    – gotube
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 21:46
  • @gotube Thank you! What do you think about this? They wrote 'to eradicate smallpox' and 'is it possible to eradicate covid19'? So I assume you underline that it is correct to write 'to eradicate covid19' but not correct to write 'to eliminate covid19 pandemic' which doesn't make sense to me. forbes.com/sites/coronavirusfrontlines/2022/06/15/…
    – user138449
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 21:52
  • Yes, those are fine.
    – gotube
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 1:20
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    Eradicate literally means 'pull up by the roots'. You can eradicate a thing like a weed or a disease, but you can't eradicate a happening like a pandemic - only bring it to an end. Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 5:59
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    From Yes, Prime Minister:  ᴅᴏʀᴏᴛʜʏ: Get rid of the Department Of Education.  ᴊɪᴍ: I don't understand.  ᴅᴏʀᴏᴛʜʏ: Get rid of it! Abolish it! Remove it! Expunge it, eliminate it, eradicate it, exterminate it! Get rid of it!!!  ᴊɪᴍ: …Get rid of it??  ᴅᴏʀᴏᴛʜʏ: Yes!  ᴊɪᴍ: I couldn't do that…  ᴅᴏʀᴏᴛʜʏ: Why not? What does it do?  ᴊɪᴍ: I could do that…
    – gidds
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 13:05

3 Answers 3


"Eliminate" would be possible, but not the best word. The usual colocation is "eradicate a disease".

You can "eliminate" something by moving it, not destroying it. It is used in contexts like "The police eliminated him from their inquiries." (The didn't destroy him, just moved him out of the set of suspects) (The etymology is Latin ex limine and notice the connection to the word "limits"

So the better word to is eradicate, which means destroy completely (The etymology gives "pull out by the roots, and notice the connection to the word "radish")

So, one "eradicates" a disease. But "eradicate a pandemic" seems an odd choice of words. Does it mean that the disease causing the pandemic has been eradicated, or the disease is no longer causing pandemic levels of infection? Neither "eliminate" nor "eradicate" seems to be the ideal word, and I'd suggest "control the pandemic" or (passively) "The pandemic passes".

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    @Stef addressed.
    – James K
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 11:56

There is no alternative. That's the reason you didn't find one.

Obliterate or annihilate would work. They mean almost the exact same thing as eradicate but only eradicate can be idiomatically applied to disease.

If you want to be adventurous and have your audience think, Hmmm, that sounds odd but unique, use obliterate or annihilate. If you want to sound idiomatic and well spoken, use eradicate.

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    It appears that prior to 1900 people did sometimes write that disease was being annihilated. Since then, almost nothing. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – EllieK
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 18:04

It's not clear to me if you are asking for an alternative expression for eradicating a disease or an expression for ending a pandemic. These are entirely different things.

If you are talking about the latter, you can just use the perfectly good plain English verb to end a pandemic.

If you are talking about the former, you can say that the disease was stamped out.

Examples of usage:

"In the United States, examples include measles, rubella and diphtheria -- all of which were largely stamped out by vaccination." (source)

"Researchers have successfully stamped out the fish disease VHS in Denmark." (source)

"Smallpox has been stamped out and various other diseases are declining, thanks to vaccination." (source)

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