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[pleyg] /pleɪg/
an epidemic disease that causes high mortality; pestilence.
an infectious, epidemic disease caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, characterized by fever, chills, and prostration, transmitted to humans from rats by means of the bites of fleas.
any widespread affliction, calamity, or evil, especially one regarded as a direct punishment by God:
a plague of war and desolation.
any cause of trouble, annoyance, or vexation:
Uninvited guests are a plague.
verb (used with object), plagued, plaguing.
to trouble, annoy, or torment in any manner:
The question of his future plagues him with doubt.
to annoy, bother, or pester:
Ants plagued the picnickers.
to smite with a plague, pestilence, death, etc.; scourge:
those whom the gods had plagued.
to infect with a plague; cause an epidemic in or among:
diseases that still plague the natives of Ethiopia.
to afflict with any evil:
He was plagued by allergies all his life.
Origin of plague
1350-1400; Middle English plage < Latin plāga stripe, wound, Late Latin: pestilence
Related forms
plaguer, noun
antiplague, noun, adjective
unplagued, adjective
Can be confused
plague, plaque.
4. nuisance, bother, torment. 6. harass, vex, harry, hector, fret, worry, badger, irritate, disturb.
Synonym Study
6. See bother.

Plague, The

French La Peste. a novel (1947) by Albert Camus. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for plague


any widespread and usually highly contagious disease with a high fatality rate
an infectious disease of rodents, esp rats, transmitted to man by the bite of the rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis)
something that afflicts or harasses
(informal) an annoyance or nuisance
a pestilence, affliction, or calamity on a large scale, esp when regarded as sent by God
(archaic) used to express annoyance, disgust, etc: a plague on you
verb (transitive) plagues, plaguing, plagued
to afflict or harass
to bring down a plague upon
(informal) to annoy
Derived Forms
plaguer, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Late Latin plāga pestilence, from Latin: a blow; related to Greek plēgē a stroke, Latin plangere to strike
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 plague

late 14c., plage, "affliction, calamity, evil, scourge;" early 15c., "malignant disease," from Old French plage (14c.), from Late Latin plaga, used in Vulgate for "pestilence," from Latin plaga "stroke, wound," probably from root of plangere "to strike, lament (by beating the breast)," from or cognate with Greek (Doric) plaga "blow," from PIE *plak- (2) "to strike, to hit" (cf. Greek plazein "to drive away," plessein "to beat, strike;" Old English flocan "to strike, beat;" Gothic flokan "to bewail;" German fluchen, Old Frisian floka "to curse").

The Latin word also is the source of Old Irish plag (genitive plaige) "plague, pestilence," German Plage, Dutch plaage. Meaning "epidemic that causes many deaths" is from 1540s; specifically in reference to bubonic plague from c.1600. Modern spelling follows French, which had plague from 15c. Weakened sense of "anything annoying" is from c.1600.


late 15c., from Middle Dutch plaghen, from plaghe (n.) "plague" (see plague (n.)). Sense of "bother, annoy" it is first recorded 1590s. Related: Plagued; plaguing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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plague in Medicine

plague (plāg)
A highly infectious, usually fatal, epidemic disease, especially bubonic plague.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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plague in Science
  1. Any of various highly infectious, usually fatal epidemic diseases.

  2. An often fatal disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, transmitted to humans usually by fleas that have bitten infected rats or other rodents. ◇ Bubonic plague, the most common type, is characterized by the tender, swollen lymph nodes called buboes, fever, clotting abnormalities of the blood, and tissue necrosis. An epidemic of bubonic plague in fourteenth-century Europe and Asia was known as the Black Death.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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plague in Culture
plague [(playg)]

A highly contagious disease, such as bubonic plague, that spreads quickly throughout a population and causes widespread sickness and death.

Note: The term is also used to refer to widespread outbreaks of many kinds, such as a “plague of locusts.”
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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Idioms and Phrases with plague


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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