Definition of anthrax in English:



  • [mass noun] A serious bacterial disease of sheep and cattle, typically affecting the skin and lungs. It can be transmitted to humans, causing severe skin ulceration (see malignant pustule) or a form of pneumonia (wool-sorters' disease).

    • ‘Any doctor could learn as much about anthrax through reading a newspaper as they could through reading a medical text.’
    • ‘The new test can identify the presence of anthrax in less than one hour instead of days.’
    • ‘First of all, smallpox, anthrax, and the like are hard to spread effectively.’
    • ‘In New York five people are confirmed to have been exposed to the bacterium, of whom two have developed anthrax.’
    • ‘An early suspicion that anthrax might have been the cause of the infection has been discounted.’


Late Middle English: Latin, carbuncle (the earliest sense in English), from Greek anthrax, anthrak- coal, carbuncle, with reference to the skin ulceration in humans.