Word of the Week: Morbidity

illustration of scientist looking into microscope - word of the week

Alex Dos Diaz / Verywell

Each week, Verywell explains a term from health, medicine, science, or technology.


How to say itMorbidity (mor-BID-it-tea)

What it means: How many people have a certain disease in a population.

Where it comes from: Latin, morbus, “disease”

An image of a disease tracking database on a computer screen.

Clay Banks/Unsplash

Where you might see or hear it: When you hear about a disease outbreak in the news, one piece of information that scientists keep an eye on is how many people in a population get sick. The number or rate of people who get an illness in a specific place is called morbidity.

On an individual level, morbidity can also refer to having a disease—more specifically, to the long-term consequences of having that disease.

When you might want to use it: If you’re talking with a loved one about a current infectious disease outbreak in the United States—say, monkeypox or COVID-19—you could explain that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps track of how many people are getting sick. When they report that number, they refer to it as morbidity.

If you’re talking about your own health, you could explain that morbidity means the long-term effects that disease may have on your health, and the possible complications you could have.