An epicentre is not some sort of super centre, not the very centre of an event or a circle. (That would be …. the centre.) The word, derived from ancient Greek through Latin, actually means “situated on a centre” and so is not in fact a centre at all.

Similarly, an epicycle such as Ptolemy used in his system of explaining astronomical observations is a cycle on a cycle and not the main circle of rotation.

As far as an earthquake is concerned – where the word can be used in its strict sense – the epicentre is the point on the Earth’s surface nearest to the earthquake’s hypocentre, which is the real “centre.”

To hear reporters on the news talking about the epicentre of the recent E Coli outbreak in Germany is annoying as they quite clearly are talking about the point from which the outbreak radiated, which would be its centre. There is no need to qualify or heighten the term in any way.

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