Definition of typhus in US English:



  • An infectious disease caused by rickettsiae, characterized by a purple rash, headaches, fever, and usually delirium, and historically a cause of high mortality during wars and famines. There are several forms, transmitted by vectors such as lice, ticks, mites, and rat fleas.

    Also called spotted fever
    • ‘Body lice are associated with severe systemic diseases such as typhus and trench fever.’
    • ‘Civil War surgeons recognized only one typhus disease: epidemic typhus spread by lice infected with Rickettsia prowazekii was documented to occur in army camps.’
    • ‘The people at this camp were usually killed by diseases like tuberculosis and typhus.’
    • ‘To measles we can add smallpox, tuberculosis, malaria, typhus, typhoid, influenza and syphilis.’
    • ‘Among the diseases resulting from poor sanitation, unclean water and poor waste disposal are dysentery, cholera, typhus fever, typhoid, schistosomiasis and trachoma.’
    • ‘Tito's government significantly raised the standard of health, eliminating diseases such as typhus, tuberculosis, and whooping cough.’
    • ‘The scenes from 19th century Edinburgh, with its multitude of epidemics of typhus, smallpox, plague, and other mysterious fevers, might still be seen in any part of the developing world.’
    • ‘Body lice may transmit typhus and trench fever.’
    • ‘Diseases such as smallpox, typhus, and tuberculosis had dire consequences, and these consequences were intensifying on Britain's increasingly crowded streets.’
    • ‘Investigators who worked on cholera, typhus, yellow fever, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever sometimes died of the diseases they were working on.’
    • ‘The concentration of so many men and camp followers promoted the outbreaks of cholera, diphtheria, dysentery, typhoid fever, typhus, bubonic plague - and venereal diseases.’
    • ‘The body louse, Pediculus humanus corporis, is a vector of epidemic typhus, trench fever, and relapsing fever.’
    • ‘The principal recorded killers were smallpox, influenza, measles, typhoid, typhus, chickenpox, whooping cough, tuberculosis and syphilis.’
    • ‘Rodents cost billions of dollars in lost crops each year, and some are carriers of human diseases such as bubonic plague, typhus, and Hanta fever.’
    • ‘In the 19th century, doctors prescribed whisky or brandy for all kinds of fevers, from influenza and pneumonia to malaria, typhus and cholera.’
    • ‘He joined the Royal Air Force as a medical officer and served in India, Burma, and Ceylon, where he encountered smallpox, plague, poliomyelitis, typhus, anthrax, malaria, and dysentery.’
    • ‘All the British personnel have been vaccinated against diseases including typhus and yellow fever before being sent to Afghanistan, and since mid-March have been taking anti-malaria tablets.’
    • ‘By now, successive epidemics of smallpox and typhus - diseases unknown in Mexico prior to the arrival of the Europeans - were raging.’
    • ‘Common scourges found in the desert include plague, typhus, malaria, dengue fever, dysentery, cholera, and typhoid.’
    • ‘The animals harbor the lice and fleas that spawn serious diseases such as typhus, trichinosis, and infectious jaundice.’


Mid 17th century: modern Latin, from Greek tuphos ‘smoke, stupor’, from tuphein ‘to smoke’.