[ lep-ruhs ]
/ ˈlɛp rəs /
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Pathology. affected with leprosy.
of or resembling leprosy.
Botany, Zoology. covered with scales.
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Origin of leprous

First recorded in 1175–1225; Middle English word from Late Latin word leprōsus.See leper, -ous


lep·rous·ly, adverblep·rous·ness, nounnon·lep·rous, adjectivenon·lep·rous·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does leprous mean?

Leprous is an adjective used to describe someone with leprosy, an infectious skin disease.

Leprous can also mean resembling or relating to leprosy.

Leprosy causes bumps and wounds on and under the skin that gradually spread and can cause muscle weakness, nerve damage, and paralysis. If not treated effectively, it can result in the loss of body parts and eventually death.

Leprosy is also called Hansen’s disease, which is the name preferred by many medical professionals. It’s caused by a kind of bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. It can be cured with a treatment of antibiotics and other drugs.

Cases of leprosy have been documented since ancient times. Due to its severe effects and contagiousness, many people who have had the disease throughout history have been stigmatized and treated as outcasts.

Historically, the word leper has been used to refer to a person with leprosy. Due to the stigma, it came to be used in a more figurative way to mean an outcast or someone who is excluded, especially for behavior or opinions considered unacceptable. Though it’s much less common, the adjective leprous can also be used in this way, as in Ever since I expressed my opinion, I’ve been treated as leprous around here. However, both the figurative and literal senses of leper can be considered insensitive due to the fact that they can dehumanize those who have the disease. Although the term leprous patient is sometimes used to refer to someone with the disease, it is typically recommended to use a phrase like “a person with Hansen’s disease.”

Where does leprous come from?

The first records of the use of the word leprous in English come from around the 1200s. The word leprosy isn’t recorded until later, in the 1500s (though descriptions of a disease thought to be leprosy date back much further—it’s even mentioned in the Bible.) Both leprosy and leprous derive from the Greek word leprós, “scaly,” which is related to lépein, “to peel.”

In the study of plants and animals, leprous is a less common synonym of leprose, meaning covered with scales. Some early uses of the word leprosy were more general, referring to any disease involving scaly or discolored patches of skin. Today, though, leprosy specifically refers to a disease caused by a Mycobacterium leprae. Although this bacterium can be killed with antibiotics, the skin and nerve damage that the disease can cause can be permanent, so early diagnosis is key. The word leprous can be used to describe a person with leprosy or the parts of their body that are affected by it, but leprous is not commonly used by medical professionals.

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What are some other forms related to leprous?

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What are some words that often get used in discussing leprous?


How is leprous used in real life?

Leprous is not commonly used. Due to leprosy’s history of stigmatization, the name Hansen’s disease is often preferred to leprosy.

How to use leprous in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for leprous

/ (ˈlɛprəs) /

having leprosy
relating to or resembling leprosy
biology a less common word for leprose

Derived forms of leprous

leprously, adverbleprousness, noun

Word Origin for leprous

C13: from Old French, from Late Latin leprosus, from lepra leper
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