Definition of murrain in English:



  • 1mass noun Redwater fever or a similar infectious disease affecting cattle or other animals.

  • 2archaic A plague, epidemic, or crop blight.

    • ‘Whole villages, ruined by murrains, pests, fires, or raids of new immigrants, were often abandoned by their inhabitants, who went anywhere in search of new abodes.’
    • ‘Crop failures in 1315, 1316, and 1321, largely due to exceptionally wet summers, overlapped with catastrophic losses of animals as disease - ‘murrain’ - devastated the nation's sheep flocks between 1313 and 1317 and its cattle 1319-21.’
    • ‘He told him of the plague of the first born, of darkness, of hail and birds, lice, frogs, flies, the plague of blood, the plague of murrain - one plague for each day.’
    • ‘There were great murrains, or diseases, of sheep and cattle, which meant that the animals all died, adding to the misery of the starving people.’
    • ‘The more mystically-minded clerics and chroniclers may have been confounded in their dire predictions of murrains, pestilence, and the imminent Second Coming (a comet sighted around 996 had been thought particularly propitious), but though Armageddon did not materialise, the reality was scarcely less awful.’
    disease, sickness
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 The potato blight during the Irish famine in the mid 19th century.


Late Middle English: from Old French morine, based on Latin mori ‘to die’.