from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A usually fatal epidemic disease, especially bubonic plague.
  • n. A pernicious, evil influence or agent.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any epidemic disease that is highly contagious, infectious, virulent and devastating.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Specifically, the disease known as the plague; hence, any contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating.
  • n. Fig.: That which is pestilent, noxious, or pernicious to the moral character of great numbers.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The disease called the plague or pest; also, any epidemic malignant disease.
  • n. That which is pestilential or pestiferous; that which produces or tends to produce malignant disease.
  • n. That which is morally pestilent; that which is mischievous, noxious, or malignant in any respect.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a serious (sometimes fatal) infection of rodents caused by Yersinia pestis and accidentally transmitted to humans by the bite of a flea that has bitten an infected animal
  • n. a pernicious and malign influence that is hard to get rid of
  • n. any epidemic disease with a high death rate


From Middle English, from Old French, from Latin pestilentia ("plague"), from pestilens ("infected, unwholesome, noxious"); see pestilent. (Wiktionary)



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  • The WordNet definition lists 3 senses, the above, "any epidemic disease with a high death rate", and "a pernicious and malign influence that is hard to get rid of". The second is what you are referring to. The third is the metaphorical sense.

    January 6, 2008

  • What kind of apocalyptic weekend are you planning, SoG?

    January 6, 2008

  • The WordNet definition refers specifically to plague. Surely pestilence is a more general term?

    January 6, 2008