[ur-guh-tiz-uh m]

noun Pathology.

a condition caused by eating rye or some other grain that is infected with ergot fungus or by taking an overdose of a medicine containing ergot, characterized by cramps, spasms, and a form of gangrene.

Origin of ergotism

First recorded in 1850–55; ergot + -ism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ergotism

Historical Examples of ergotism

  • This reference to ergotism in England in 1676 is given also in Th.

  • Ergotism or ergot poisoning is due to the use of rye that has become diseased through the attack of a fungus, Claviceps purpurea.

    Food Poisoning

    Edwin Oakes Jordan

  • Thus far the best-known examples of poisoning by the products of micro-organisms are botulism and ergotism.

    Food Poisoning

    Edwin Oakes Jordan

  • With decomposed breads we take the poisons that produce pellagra, kak-ke, ergotism and acrodinia.

    Health on the Farm

    H. F. Harris

  • This is a Latin letter by Dr. Baker, and gives a good history of the various epidemics of ergotism.

British Dictionary definitions for ergotism



ergot poisoning, producing either burning pains and eventually gangrene in the limbs or itching skin and convulsionsAlso called: Saint Anthony's fire
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

ergotism in Medicine




Poisoning caused by consuming ergot-infected grain or grain products, or from excessive use of drugs containing ergot.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.