Typhoid Mary


noun

a carrier or transmitter of anything undesirable, harmful, or catastrophic.

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Origin of Typhoid Mary

First recorded in 1905–10; so called after Mary Mallon (1869–1938), Irish-born cook in the U.S., who was found to be a typhoid carrier
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Cultural definitions for Typhoid Mary (1 of 2)

Typhoid Mary

A person likely to cause a disaster; from Mary Mallen, an Irish woman in the United States who was discovered to be a carrier of typhoid fever.

Cultural definitions for Typhoid Mary (2 of 2)

Typhoid Mary

A cook who carried typhoid fever and passed it on to many people in and around New York City in the early twentieth century.

notes for Typhoid Mary

The term is often applied to the carrier of a contagious disease, or, more generally, to anyone who brings bad luck: “The last three insurance companies I had policies with folded. I feel like Typhoid Mary.”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with Typhoid Mary

typhoid Mary

A carrier or spreader of misfortune, as in I swear he's a typhoid Mary; everything at the office has gone wrong since he was hired. This expression alludes to a real person, Mary Manson, who died in 1938. An Irish-born servant, she transmitted typhoid fever to others and was referred to as “typhoid Mary” from the early 1900s. The term was broadened to other carriers of calamity in the mid-1900s.

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