Definition of variola in US English:



  • technical term for smallpox
    • ‘Other viruses in this group that can cause infection in humans include variola, vaccinia (used in smallpox vaccine), and cowpox viruses.’
    • ‘The Smallpox virus, or variola, has been wreaking havoc across the globe for thousands of years.’
    • ‘No current technology is capable of discriminating variola from vaccinia (ie, the acute infectious disease caused by smallpox vaccination).’
    • ‘It suggested that immunizing humans against smallpox might protect them against genetically engineered variola as well.’
    • ‘Stocks of variola, the virus that causes the disease, remained in two locations - one in the United States and one in Russia.’


Late 18th century: from medieval Latin, literally ‘pustule, pock’, from Latin varius ‘diverse’.