[pes-tl-uh ns]


a deadly or virulent epidemic disease.
something that is considered harmful, destructive, or evil.

Origin of pestilence

1275–1325; Middle English < Middle French < Latin pestilentia. See pestilent, -ence
Related formsan·ti·pes·ti·lence, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for pestilence



  1. any epidemic outbreak of a deadly and highly infectious disease, such as the plague
  2. such a disease
an evil influence or idea
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

Word Origin and History for pestilence

c.1300, from Old French pestilence "plague, epidemic" (12c.) and directly from Latin pestilentia "a plague, an unwholesome atmosphere," noun of condition from pestilentem (nominative pestilens) "infected, unwholesome, noxious," from pestis "deadly disease, plague" (see pest).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

pestilence in Medicine




A usually fatal epidemic disease, especially bubonic plague.
An epidemic of such a disease.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.