Definition of scourge in US English:



  • 1historical A whip used as an instrument of punishment.

    • ‘They were in hot pursuit of their escaping slaves, with whips and scourges cracking, and blades drawn.’
    • ‘Begone, or shall I be required to chastise you with the whip and the scourge once more?’
    whip, horsewhip, lash, strap, birch, switch, flail
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  • 2A person or thing that causes great trouble or suffering.

    ‘the scourge of mass unemployment’
    • ‘Capitalism is incapable of ending the scourge of unemployment.’
    • ‘The finest hospitals lost one out of six young mothers to the scourge of ‘childbed fever.’’
    • ‘In this way, public power will be misused and the society will suffer setbacks in fighting the social scourge of corruption.’
    • ‘Zambia has been suffering from the scourge of fuel smuggling across borders because of its central location, the Energy Regulations Board has said.’
    • ‘He was involved, as a medical scientist, in work on eradicating two great scourges - poliomyelitis and rabbits.’
    • ‘One of the greatest scourges afflicting Indigenous peoples in Canada is given only token attention, he said.’
    • ‘The street is the latest in Swindon where normal life has been ruined by the scourge of anti-social behaviour.’
    • ‘With new efforts to try to manage this killer disease it is important that nations begin tackling some of the problems that fuel the scourge.’
    • ‘If we raise this money now, we will be preventing future generations from suffering this age-old scourge.’
    • ‘The author of the report on the practical efforts of Dublin mothers against the heroin scourge supported the call for more resources to be made available.’
    • ‘Despite huge initiatives and lavish spending, vast stretches of Asia and Africa continue to be afflicted by the scourges of hunger and disease.’
    • ‘The fiction business, Bellaigue tells us, is troubled by twin scourges: speculative advances and competitive discounts.’
    • ‘To be punished by the scourge of the seas was not a particularly happy thought.’
    • ‘In response to this serious social scourge the Ministry of Interior has issued an order to stop processing gun licenses.’
    • ‘This scourge can be countered only if terror has no hiding place.’
    • ‘While alcohol is the number one problem, the scourge of drugs is also placing increasing pressure on the centre and its 17 permanent staff.’
    • ‘Rabbits are considered pests, being a scourge on crops and the natural environment.’
    • ‘Unemployment, long the scourge of the Irish economy, remains very low, at around 4.5%, despite the recent slowdown in economic growth.’
    • ‘‘Bill suffered the scourge of asthma all his life,’ he said.’
    • ‘Like every city, Sheffield suffers from the scourge of nuisance neighbours, but has taken a leading role in trying to address the problem.’
    affliction, bane, curse, plague, menace, evil, misfortune, burden, cross to bear, thorn in one's flesh, thorn in one's side, bitter pill, trial, nuisance, pest
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[with object]
  • 1historical Whip (someone) as a punishment.

    • ‘Beattie stripped him of all his assumed dignity, and having laid his back bare, scourged him till he smarted keenly, and cursed again.’
    • ‘As he is beaten, he falls on his back and can see only the foot of the soldier who is scourging him.’
    • ‘They were men who did public penance and scourged themselves with whips of hard knotted leather with little iron spikes.’
    • ‘After a criminal's condemnation, it was the custom for a victim to be scourged with the flagellum, a whip with leather throngs.’
    • ‘He continued to scourge me even after I had collapsed onto the pier.’
    flog, whip, beat, horsewhip, lash, flagellate, flail, strap, birch, cane, thrash, belt, leather
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  • 2Cause great suffering to.

    ‘political methods used to scourge and oppress workers’
    • ‘Although carnal passion had scourged Poussin with the most literal and painful wounds of love, affection between the artist and his young bride likely arose through nurturing, gratitude, and devotion.’
    • ‘From the buzzing hive of contradictions that frequently scourge the truly gifted, there are strong signs that McEnroe wanted to do something entirely different.’
    • ‘The Abbeyleix Park Development committee say that they are still scourged with the amount of dog fouling in and around the Fr. John Breen Memorial Park.’
    • ‘American privateering scourged British commerce during the Revolution, and some U.S. Navy skippers like John Paul Jones won famous single-ship victories.’
    • ‘He was largely responsible for the purging of the Moscow region and in 1938 and was transferred to the Ukraine to scourge the party there.’
    • ‘He also scourges the bureaucracy and the corruption, and the collusion between the Mafia and politicians.’
    • ‘The Italian playwright was awarded the Nobel Prize for ‘emulating the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden’.’
    • ‘Since buying their way back to power with the people's own money, they have scourged the country with a series of random and ill-thought out cutbacks.’
    • ‘His little band of fighters scourged settlements on both sides of the Mexican boundary and stood off armies of two nations.’
    • ‘Straddling two of the Indian subcontinent's mightiest rivers, the country is regularly drowned by flood crests surging downstream or scourged by whirlwinds from the sea.’
    • ‘He continued to scourge the defence with two more fine points from play, although there was an element of doubt about the first one.’
    • ‘Eight hundred years have passed since the Great Conflict scourged the world and covered it in shadow.’
    afflict, plague, torment, torture, curse, cause suffering to, oppress, burden, bedevil, beset
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Middle English: shortening of Old French escorge (noun), escorgier (verb), from Latin ex- ‘thoroughly’ + corrigia ‘thong, whip’.