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Etymology 1 edit

Either from Middle Dutch masels (blood blisters, measels) or Middle Low German maselen (red blemishes, measels), both from Old High German masala (blood blister, phlegmon). Doublet of measlings. Cognate with mazer & mase and Middle Low German masele & māsel. Influenced in pronunciation and some senses by mesel (leprous, leper).

Noun edit

measles pl (normally plural, singular measle)

  1. (medicine) An acute and highly contagious disease which often afflicts children caused by the virus Measles morbillivirus and causing red rashes, fever, runny nose, coughing, and red eyes.
    • 1970, Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, page 78:
      Maybe it's the 'measles. They say they're going around the neighborhood.
    • 1990, International Journal of Epidemiology, volume 19, page 1073:
      In the camps a case of measles is defined as a generalized rash of three or more days duration, with a fever of at least 38.8°C.., and any one of the following: cough, coryza or conjunctivitis.
  2. (medicine, obsolete) Any disease causing red rashes.
  3. (obsolete) Used as an intensifier.
  4. (veterinary medicine) Synonym of cysticercosis: A disease of livestock or meat caused by the presence of tapeworm larvae.
    • 1641, Ben Jonson, Timber:
      The Swyne dyed of the Measils.
    • 1992, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, translated by Anthea Bell, The History of Food, page 416:
      Porcine measles, thought by classical writers to be leprosy, is actually the result of tapeworm cysts which cause ulcerations of the pig's tongue.
  5. (botany, obsolete) Any disease causing a tree's bark to become rough and irregular.
    • 1674, John Josselyn, An Account of Two Voyages to New-England, page 190:
      Their fruit-trees are subject to two diseases, the Meazels... and lowsiness.
  6. (medicine) plural of measle: a red spot forming part of a rash, (now) particularly those caused by M. morbillivirus.
    • 1599, "A.M." translating Osswald Gäbelkhover as The Boock of Physicke, p. 277:
      Others take a fether, and dippe it in the saide water, and therwith they annoynte all the Measells of the Face when they are come forth.
  7. (figuratively) plural of measle: any similar-looking red spot, particularly (printing) foxing.
    • 1867, Thomas Sutton et al., Dictionary of Photography, page 217:
      Measles. When prints are imperfectly fixed, the appearance presented is very similar to that of the same disease in the human subject. Hence the name.
    • 1929, Samuel Hoffenstein, “Mr Walter de la Mare”, in Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing, page 147:
      The stars, like measles, fade at last.
    • 1984, Gary Jennings, The Journeyer, page 671:
      The Lady Tofaa also had a red measle of paint on her forehead between her eyes.
    • 1990, John Grant, The Very Last Gambado, page 125:
      How do I get the measles out of an Indian paper print, Lovejoy?... Measles is trade nickname for foxing, those brown spots... that trouble books, prints, and watercolors.
  8. (veterinary medicine) plural of measle: the individual cysts of cysticercosis.
  9. (botany, obsolete) plural of measle: the individual blisters in the surface of a diseased tree's bark.
  10. (US, espionage jargon) A discreet assassination made to look like death from any natural cause.
    • 1975, Miles Copeland, Beyond Cloak and Dagger: Inside the CIA, page 204:
      [] they would prefer having him "die of the measles," as wags at the CIA put it, than be punished by legal means. If there is no convenient way of administering the "measles," they may even favor simply letting him go.
    • 1977, Raymond Edward Palmer, The Making of a Spy, page 99:
      Such final solutions, sometimes referred to as termination with extreme prejudice, are known in the CIA as dying of the measles — that is, the death appears to be of natural causes.
Usage notes edit

Typically, most senses of measels use the plural form but take singular agreement with verbs and other words, as if acting as an ellipsis for expressions such as a case of the measels. Typically but not always used with the definite article the.

Synonyms edit
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Verb edit


  1. third-person singular simple present indicative of measle

Etymology 2 edit

From Middle English mesel (leprous, leper), from Norman mesel (leprous, leper), from Old French mesel (leprous, leper), from Late Latin misellus (leper), from miser (wretched, wretch) + -ellus (-elle).

Noun edit


  1. (obsolete) plural of measle
  2. (obsolete) Alternative form of mesels: Leprosy.

References edit

Anagrams edit