cal·​en·​ture ˈka-lən-ˌchu̇r How to pronounce calenture (audio)
: a fever formerly supposed to affect sailors in the tropics

Did you know?

In addition to being plagued by scurvy and homesickness, sailors of yore who dared the tropics also had calenture to worry about. Given a case of this fever they were likely to imagine that the sea was actually a green field and to leap into it. Our earliest evidence of the word in English is from the late 16th century. Such potent imagery destined the word for figurative use also. "Calenture" has its origins in a Spanish word of the same meaning, "calentura," which itself traces to Latin calēre, meaning "to be warm." Other words from "calēre" include "calorie," "cauldron," and "scald."

Word History


Spanish calentura, from calentar to heat, from Latin calent-, calens, present participle of calēre to be warm — more at lee

First Known Use

1582, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of calenture was in 1582


Dictionary Entries Near calenture

Cite this Entry

“Calenture.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

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