See also: Pestilence



From Middle English, from Old French, from Latin pestilentia (plague), from pestilens (infected, unwholesome, noxious); equivalent to pestilent +‎ -ence.


  • IPA(key): /ˈpɛstələn(t)s/, /ˈpɛstɪlən(t)s/, /ˈpɛstlən(t)s/
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pestilence (countable and uncountable, plural pestilences)

  1. Any epidemic disease that is highly contagious, infectious, virulent and devastating.
    Synonym: murrain
    • 1826, Mary Shelley, The Last Man, part 2, chapter 2
      "Take it, Christian dogsǃ take the palaces, the gardens, the mosques, the abode of our fathers - take plague with them; pestilence is the enemy we fly; if she be your friend, hug her to your bosoms. The curse of Allah is on Stamboul, share ye her fateǃ"
    • 1831 July 15, “Of the Blood”, in Western Journal of Health[1], volume 4, number 1, L. B. Lincoln, page 38:
      It was reserved for Christians to torture bread, the staff of life, bread for which children in whole districts wail, bread, the gift of pasture to the poor, bread, for want of which thousands of our fellow beings annually perish by famine; it was reserved for Christians to torture the material of bread by fire, to create a chemical and maddening poison, burning up the brain and brutalizing the soul, and producing evils to humanity, in comparison of which, war, pestilence, and famine, cease to be evils.
    • 1887, H. Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure[2]:
      The pestilence slew and slew, and ceased not by day or by night, and those who escaped from the pestilence were slain of the famine.
    • 1949 - Bruce Kiskaddon, George R. Stewart, Earth Abides
      The snowshoe-rabbits build up through the years until they reach a climax when they seem to be everywhere; then with dramatic suddenness their pestilence falls upon them.
  2. (archaic) Anything harmful to morals or public order.

Related termsEdit


Further readingEdit



From Old French pestilence, borrowed from Latin pestilentia.



pestilence f (plural pestilences)

  1. (archaic or literary) pest epidemic; pestilence
  2. extremely foul smell
    Synonyms: infection, puanteur

Derived termsEdit


Old FrenchEdit


pestilence f (oblique plural pestilences, nominative singular pestilence, nominative plural pestilences)

  1. pestilence (epidemic disease)