Definition of pestilence in US English:



  • A fatal epidemic disease, especially bubonic plague.

    • ‘The physician's challenge is the curing of disease, educating the people in the laws of health, and preventing the spread of plagues and pestilences.’
    • ‘The pestilence that destroyed so much of our agriculture industry has left a long shadow, and no one would claim that everything today is back to normal.’
    • ‘He ordered the nearby swamps and marshes in the city of Salinus to be drained, in order to prevent an unknown pestilence, probably malaria.’
    • ‘He argues that there is clear evidence for the pestilence having been plague, rather than other diseases that have been suggested such as anthrax.’
    • ‘Either the folk had died in the fire, died of the pestilence, or fled at first breath of either.’
    plague, bubonic plague, the black death
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Middle English (also denoting something morally corrupting): from Old French, from Latin pestilentia, based on pestis ‘a plague’.