Definition of plague in English:

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Pronunciation: /plāɡ/


1A contagious bacterial disease characterized by fever and delirium, typically with the formation of buboes (see bubonic plague) and sometimes infection of the lungs ( pneumonic plague): an outbreak of plague they died of the plague
More example sentences
  • Person-to-person spread of bubonic or septicemic plague does not occur; however, pneumonic plague is highly contagious.
  • Approximately 5% to 15% of patients suffering from bubonic plague will develop secondary pneumonic plague.
  • Clinical features of pneumonic plague include fever, cough with mucopurulent sputum (gram-negative rods may be seen on gram stain), hemoptysis and chest pain.
1.1A contagious disease that spreads rapidly and kills many people.
Example sentences
  • In this way, they spread disease, plague, leprosy, typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and so on.
  • The country has made headlines lately with the resurgence of preventable diseases such as plague, malaria, dengue fever and tuberculosis.
  • Infectious disease experts say that the agents of greatest concern are the germs that cause anthrax, smallpox, plague, botulism and tularemia.
bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, Black Death;
disease, sickness, epidemic
dated contagion
archaic pestilence
1.2An unusually large number of insects or animals infesting a place and causing damage: a plague of fleas
More example sentences
  • Experts are warning that Africa is on the brink of its worst plague of the insects for nearly 20 years.
  • Australia is battling its biggest plague of locusts in decades as billions of the insects hatch along the central east region.
  • But then an almost biblical plague of insects descended on the crops and began eating them.
infestation, epidemic, invasion, swarm, multitude, host
1.3 [in singular] A thing causing trouble or irritation: staff theft is usually the plague of restaurants
More example sentences
  • A worried mum is convinced a mobile phone mast is responsible for the plague of health problems affecting her children.
  • Doctors' leaders warn the amount of time available to patients with genuine problems is being reduced because of the plague of hypochondriacs.
  • By removing the exchange rate and interest rates from the direct control of Italian authorities, the plague of high inflation and high interest rates disappeared.
bane, curse, scourge, affliction, blight
1.4 [in singular] archaic Used as a curse or an expression of despair or disgust: a plague on all their houses!
In recent use echoing Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet ( iii. i. 94)
More example sentences
  • We do feel the creator's (Anderson's) anger, in cursing them with a plague on both their houses, as frogs rain from the sky.
  • A warning to Labour and the Liberal Democrats, this is not about confidence, a plague on all your houses.
  • Other than that, I'd wish a plague on all their houses if I could muster enough spite.

verb (plagues, plaguing, plagued)

[with object]
1Cause continual trouble or distress to: the problems that plagued the company he has been plagued by ill health
More example sentences
  • Residents living near an Accrington park that has been plagued by young troublemakers are being urged to reclaim it.
  • Neighbours claim the road is plagued by youths causing trouble and today called for extra police patrols.
  • The troubles that plagued it during filming may well end up helping it at the box office.
afflict, bedevil, torment, trouble, beset, dog, curse
1.1Pester or harass (someone) continually: he was plaguing her with questions
More example sentences
  • They countered his discipline by continually plaguing him with giant hound dogs he never wanted.
  • If you make money your god, it will plague you like the devil.
  • However, it's also a hassle shopping there because you get plagued by people wanting your money.
pester, harass, badger, bother, torment, persecute, bedevil, harry, hound, trouble, irritate, nag, annoy, vex, molest
informal hassle, bug, aggravate, devil


Late Middle English: Latin plaga 'stroke, wound', probably from Greek (Doric dialect) plaga, from a base meaning 'strike'.

  • The late 14th-century translation of the Bible supervised by John Wyclif introduced the word plague to English. Its root is Latin plaga ‘a stroke, wound’, and ‘a blow’ was one of its first English senses. It was also used in reference to the ten plagues of Egypt, described in Exodus. Although these included boils and the death of cattle and, finally, firstborn children, they were mainly not medical conditions, but afflictions like hordes of frogs and swarms of locusts. Nevertheless, by the late 15th century people were applying plague specifically to infectious diseases and epidemics, such as bubonic plague (from the inflamed swellings in the armpit or groin called ‘buboes’ from the Greek word for the groin or a swelling there). The Black Death that reached England in 1348 is thought to have been bubonic plague. To avoid like the plague is not medieval, but dates from the end of the 17th century, when the Great Plague of 1665–66 was fresh in people's memories. See also pest

Words that rhyme with plague

Craig, Hague, Haig, taig, vague

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: plague

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