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See also: épicentre


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Alternative forms[edit]


epi- (over, on top) +‎ centre, from Ancient Greek ἐπί (epí, on) + κέντρον (kéntron, centre).

Sense of “center of an activity (particularly a disaster)” (1908) by generalization from earthquakes, possibly influenced by epidemic.[1]



epicentre (plural epicentres)

  1. (seismology) The point on the land or water surface directly above the focus, or hypocentre, of an earthquake.
    • 2008, Michael Woods, Mary B. Woods, Earthquakes, Lerner Books, →ISBN, page 18:
      The epicentre isn't always the point of heaviest damage. Faults can be many kilometres long and seismic waves shake areas all along the fault.
  2. (military) The point on the surface of the earth directly above an underground explosion.
    Synonym: ground zero
  3. (figuratively, proscribed) The focal point of any activity, especially if dangerous or destructive.
    • 2023 January 31, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, “Russia-Ukraine War: Russia Pours Fighters Into Battle for Bakhmut”, in The New York Times[4], →ISSN:
      Eleven months after Moscow launched its full-scale invasion, Bakhmut and surrounding areas have become an epicenter of fighting, their importance growing as both sides have added forces to the battle.
  4. (figuratively, proscribed) The geographical area in which an ongoing disaster, illness, crisis, or other destructive event is currently most severe.
    • 2020 February 6, Laurie Chen, “Communist officials fired after disabled Chinese boy died when relatives were put in coronavirus quarantine”, in South China Morning Post[5], →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 06 February 2020, Society‎[6]:
      Yan Cheng had cerebral palsy and died on January 29 while in the care of officials in Huajiahe township, Hongan county, more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

Usage notes[edit]

The loose usage “center”, or specifically “center of a disaster”, is criticized by some as pretentious and incorrect,[2][3][4] since epi- specifically means “over, on top”, and is not a generic intensifier.

A more semantic objection is that epicenter implies a singular center of a disaster, which is misleading for many disasters, such as diseases, which do not spread simply by radiation. Instead, hot spot is preferred by some as less misleading.[1]

Nevertheless, epicenter is widely used for diseases and other disasters, both in media and epidemiology.


Related terms[edit]



epicentre (third-person singular simple present epicentres, present participle epicentring, simple past and past participle epicentred)

  1. Of an earthquake: to have its epicentre (at a specified location).
    • 1916, Canal Record, volume 9, page 28:
      The records of disturbances epicentering closer to the station, notably those of 1914 in Los Santos Province of the Republic of Panama, about 120 miles from Balboa Heights, have usually been less satisfactory than this record []


  1. 1.0 1.1 Zimmer, Ben (2020 March 28) “Is ‘Epicenter’ the Wrong Word for New York?”, in Politico[1]
  2. ^ Bryan A. Garner (2003) Garner's Modern English Usage, Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 305
  3. ^ Safire, William (2001 May 6) The New York Times (On language)‎[2], quoting geophysicist Joseph D. Sides: “spurious erudition on the part of writers combined with scientific illiteracy on the part of copy editors”
  4. ^ Safire, William (2006 November 12) The New York Times Magazine (On language)‎[3]




  • (epicentrè) IPA(key): [ɛpʲɪt͡sʲɛnʲtʲˈrʲɛ]
  • (epiceñtre) IPA(key): [ɛpʲɪˈt͡sʲɛnʲtʲrʲɛ]


epicentrè m

  1. locative singular of epicentras


epiceñtre m

  1. vocative singular of epicentras