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[mee-zuh lz] /ˈmi zəlz/
(used with a singular or plural verb) Pathology.
  1. an acute infectious disease occurring mostly in children, characterized by catarrhal and febrile symptoms and an eruption of small red spots; rubeola.
  2. any of certain other eruptive diseases.
    Compare German measles.
Veterinary Pathology. a disease in swine and other animals caused by the larvae of certain tapeworms of the genus Taenia.
(used with a plural verb) the larvae that cause measles in swine and other animals, and that upon maturation produce trichinosis in humans.
Origin of measles
1275-1325; Middle English mesels, variant of maseles (plural); cognate with Dutch maselen (plural), Middle Dutch masel; akin to German Masern measles, plural of Maser speck Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for measles
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I've got him in another barn; that stuff's as catchin' as measles.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • It cheered him in the measles, it comforted him in the mumps.

    A Boy I Knew and Four Dogs Laurence Hutton
  • But there are some things you get without buyin'—the measles, for instance.

    Cy Whittaker's Place Joseph C. Lincoln
  • Samuel is as susceptible to pretty girls as children are to the measles.

    Mary-'Gusta Joseph C. Lincoln
  • When I was about twenty, I guess, and laid up with the measles.

    The Portygee Joseph Crosby Lincoln
British Dictionary definitions for measles


noun (functioning as singular or pl)
a highly contagious viral disease common in children, characterized by fever, profuse nasal discharge of mucus, conjunctivitis, and a rash of small red spots spreading from the forehead down to the limbs Technical names morbilli, rubeola See also German measles
a disease of cattle, sheep, and pigs, caused by infestation with tapeworm larvae
Word Origin
C14: from Middle Low German masele spot on the skin; influenced by Middle English mesel leper, from Latin misellus, diminutive of miser wretched
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for measles

infectious disease, early 14c., plural of Middle English masel, perhaps from Middle Dutch masel "blemish" (in plural "measles") or Middle Low German masele, from Proto-Germanic *mas- "spot, blemish" (cf. Old High German masla "blood-blister," German Masern "measles").

There might have been an Old English cognate, but if so it has not been recorded. Form probably influenced by Middle English mesel "leprous" (late 13c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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measles in Medicine

measles mea·sles (mē'zəlz)

  1. An acute contagious viral disease usually occurring in childhood and characterized by eruption of red spots on the skin, fever, and catarrhal symptoms. Also called rubeola.

  2. Black measles.

  3. Any of several other diseases, especially German measles, that cause similar but milder symptoms.

  4. A disease of cattle and swine caused by tapeworm larvae.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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measles in Science
An infectious disease caused by the rubeola virus of the genus Morbillivirus, characterized by fever, cough, and a rash that begins on the face and spreads to other parts of the body. Vaccinations, usually given in early childhood, confer immunity to measles. Also called rubeola.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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measles in Culture

measles definition

An acute and contagious disease caused by a virus and characterized by the outbreak of small red spots on the skin. Measles occurs most often in school-age children. (Compare German measles.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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