huang·​long·​bing ˈhwäŋ-ˈlu̇ŋ-ˈbiŋ How to pronounce huanglongbing (audio)
: citrus greening
The bacterial disease, also known as huanglongbing (yellow dragon disease), affects the vascular system of the tree, killing it in six to eight years.Doug Caldwell, Tampa Tribune, 10 June 2006
abbreviation HLB

Word History


borrowed from Chinese (Beijing standard) huánglóngbìng, literally "yellow dragon disease," perhaps mistranslation of a compound in Teochew/Cháozhōu (Southern Min dialect of eastern Guangdong province) meaning "yellow shoot disease"

Note: The compound huanglongbing was apparently introduced in the English abstract to a Chinese paper by the plant pathologist Lin Kung Hsiang/Lin Kongxiang (1910-86) in Acta Phytopathologica Sinica, vol. 2 (1956), pp. 1-42: "Yellow shoot of citrus. Symptomatology. Investigations in the cause of huanglongbing. Natural transmission and spread. General conclusion." (This is the abstract—or title of the abstract—as cited in J.M. Bové, "Huanglongbing: A destructive, newly-emerging, century-old disease of citrus," Journal of Plant Pathology, vol. 88, no. 1 [2006], pp. 35-36.) According to an edited translation of Lin's paper (Kung Hsian Lin and Kung Hsun Lin, "The citrus huang lung bin [sic] (greening) disease in China," B. Aubert, et al., editors, Rehabilitation of Citrus Industry in the Asia Pacific Region: Proceedings of the Asia Pacific International Conference on Citriculture, Chiang Mai Thailand 4-10th February 1990 [Rome?: FAO/UNDP, 1990?], pp. 1-26), "The yellow shoot disease is called Huang lung, because in the Chaozhou district the new flush on a tree is called Huang Lung (yellow shoot or yellow dragon) which describes the first aspect of the disease." There are several unresolved issues here that would require not only access to the Chinese text, but knowledge of relevant dialect forms. Presumably the citrus growers from whom Lin Kongxiang acquired the name spoke the Teochew dialect of Southern Min characteristic of the Cháozhōu area. Whether the relevant word was a homonym for "shoot" and "dragon" or two completely different forms needs to be established. Lin was a native of Fujian, but his degree of acquaintance with the quite distinct Cháozhōu dialect is uncertain. There is also the question of how the paper was written and edited into standard written Chinese, and what relation the English version bears to the original. According to Tim R. Gottwald, et al., "Citrus Huanglongbing: The Pathogen and Its Impact," Plant Health Progress: Peer-Reviewed Journal of Applied Plant Health, September, 2007 (on-line publication at, "this name [huanglongbing] has been translated into English as 'yellow dragon disease' (47), but Zhao (112) in his 1981 review gives the English name as 'yellow shoot disease,' and more recently he (113) confirmed that this is the correct meaning in the Chaoshan district of Guangdong Province where the disease was first observed." (References are to Zhao Xueyuan, "Citrus yellow shoot (Huanglungbin) in China: A Review," Proceedings of the International Society of Citriculture, vol. 1 [1981], pp. 466-69; and "Huanglongbing in China," Proceedings of the Huanglongbing-Greening International Workshop, July 16-20, 2006, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil [Bayer Crop Science, 2006], p. 3.

First Known Use

1956, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of huanglongbing was in 1956

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“Huanglongbing.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2024.

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