One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
The great epidemic of a disease thought to be bubonic plague, which killed a large proportion of the population of Europe in the mid 14th century. It originated in central Asia and China and spread rapidly through Europe, carried by the fleas of black rats, reaching England in 1348 and killing between one third and one half of the population in a matter of months.
A modern term (compare with earlier the (great) pestilence, great death, the plague), said to have been introduced into English history by Mrs Markham (pseudonym of Mrs Penrose) in 1823, and into medical literature by a translation of German der Schwarze Tod (1833).
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