pes·​ti·​lence | \ ˈpe-stə-lən(t)s How to pronounce pestilence (audio) \

Definition of pestilence

1 : a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating especially : bubonic plague
2 : something that is destructive or pernicious I'll pour this pestilence into his ear— William Shakespeare

Synonyms for pestilence


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Examples of pestilence in a Sentence

After years of war and pestilence, few people remained in the city. the fear that terrorists could unleash a pestilence that would wreak unspeakable havoc
Recent Examples on the Web Stock investing in 2022 means managing war, pestilence, 40-year high inflation, rising interest rates and still historically high measures of standard valuation for market leaders. Roger Conrad, Forbes, 28 Mar. 2022 Protagoras questioned the existence of the gods, who had inflicted defeats in war and a devastating pestilence on Athens, his fellow citizens wanted to appease them by incinerating his sacrilegious writings. Ariel Dorfman, The New York Review of Books, 18 Feb. 2022 Sekhmet, in Egyptian mythology, was the goddess of war, of the hot desert sun, of chaos and pestilence and its opposite, healing. Rob Haskell, Vogue, 15 Mar. 2022 None of that has changed, but the times certainly have, and in an era of global pestilence and heightened geopolitical turmoil, Emmerich’s doomsday visions offer a strange and generally welcome comfort. Los Angeles Times, 3 Feb. 2022 Along the way, Wolf helped aspiring grape growers and winemakers with myriad problems, pests and pestilence that challenged every would-be vintner’s dream in the Old Dominion’s humid climate. Washington Post, 27 Jan. 2022 The frightful pestilence now surrounds San Diego on all sides, and its appearance here seems to be but a question of time. San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Jan. 2022 The year closed with Omarion becoming a trending topic once again as the Delta variant morphed into another stand of pestilence that Black people could not get enough of playing around with. Keyaira Boone, Essence, 31 Dec. 2021 Pogroms and pestilence would kill the majority of the Indigenous population over the next century. Washington Post, 24 Dec. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pestilence.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of pestilence

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of pestilence was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

28 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pestilence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for pestilence


pes·​ti·​lence | \ ˈpe-stə-ləns How to pronounce pestilence (audio) \

Kids Definition of pestilence

: a contagious usually fatal disease that spreads quickly


pes·​ti·​lence | \ ˈpes-tə-lən(t)s How to pronounce pestilence (audio) \

Medical Definition of pestilence

: a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating specifically : bubonic plague

More from Merriam-Webster on pestilence

Nglish: Translation of pestilence for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pestilence for Arabic Speakers


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