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scur·​vy ˈskər-vē How to pronounce scurvy (audio)
: a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C and characterized by spongy gums, loosening of the teeth, and a bleeding into the skin and mucous membranes


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: arousing disgust or scorn : contemptible, despicable
a scurvy trick
scurvily adverb
scurviness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for scurvy

contemptible, despicable, pitiable, sorry, scurvy mean arousing or deserving scorn.

contemptible may imply any quality provoking scorn or a low standing in any scale of values.

a contemptible liar

despicable may imply utter worthlessness and usually suggests arousing an attitude of moral indignation.

a despicable crime

pitiable applies to what inspires mixed contempt and pity.

a pitiable attempt at tragedy

sorry may stress pitiable inadequacy or may suggest wretchedness or sordidness.

this rattletrap is a sorry excuse for a car

scurvy adds to despicable an implication of arousing disgust.

a scurvy crew of hangers-on

Example Sentences

Adjective after winning the lottery, she was beset by a whole scurvy swarm of con artists, ne'er-do-wells, and hangers-on
Recent Examples on the Web
But some of the doomed efforts, most famously the Franklin Expedition, have become parables of colonial cluelessness: European explorers who died of scurvy by rejecting the Inuit’s vitamin-rich diet of raw meat or after ignoring the Inuit and getting lost. Norimitsu Onishi Nasuna Stuart-ulin, New York Times, 4 June 2023 There’s mayhem, treachery, and death, imperialism and class struggle, lots of scurvy, and enough harrowing scenes to haunt any reader. Sean Woods, Rolling Stone, 16 Apr. 2023 One member died of scurvy and two others had the bright idea to walk to the next hut across thin sea ice (and were never seen again). Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, 29 Apr. 2016 The team also noted malformation of the ribs in a pattern consistent with severe rickets or scurvy. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 3 Jan. 2023 His gums started to bleed and his symptoms mimicked those of British sailors suffering from scurvy. Allison Futterman, Discover Magazine, 14 Oct. 2021 After 1492, sailors using the species’ edible pads to prevent scurvy became responsible for introducing it to the rest of the world. Marisa Sloan, Discover Magazine, 15 Oct. 2021 Three men went for help by dogsled over the ocean ice, some 100 miles south to Siberia, leaving Blackjack on her own to care for the remaining expedition member, Lorne Knight, who was bedridden with scurvy. Kate Siber, Outside Online, 18 Jan. 2018 On top of that, scurvy was beginning to ravage the men. Julian Sancton, Time, 12 May 2021
The squadron immediately ran into trouble when typhus and then scurvy, a grotesque disease of Vitamin C deficiency, struck down the majority of the crew. Mary Ann Gwinn, Los Angeles Times, 14 Apr. 2023 In the ancient world, would-be surgeons sometimes used primitive drills or saws on people, and even a child, with brain traumas, scurvy or intracranial infection, sometimes killing them. Matt Hrodey, Discover Magazine, 23 Feb. 2023 The marooned adventurers endured unfathomable suffering, ranging from extreme cold to endless nights to hideous diseases such as scurvy, a vitamin-C deficiency that rots the flesh and teeth, swells the limbs, causes excruciating pain, and if left untreated usually results in death. Joshua Hammer, The New York Review of Books, 19 Aug. 2021 What exactly is scurvy? Leah Groth,, 20 Aug. 2020 But every kingdom has its sudden outbreaks of corruption, and scurvy tricks. Joseph Goodman |, al, 10 Feb. 2023 Mariners’ work was hard, dirty, and dangerous, and diets were deficient in vitamins; scurvy was endemic on long-range voyages. James Belich, Fortune, 22 Jan. 2023 Most people don’t worry too much about rickets, goiters or scurvy in North America these days. Scott Lear, Discover Magazine, 11 Oct. 2019 Astronauts going to space might confront a problem that bedeviled sailors of centuries past: scurvy. Nathaniel Scharping, Discover Magazine, 9 Apr. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'scurvy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Adjective and Noun


First Known Use


circa 1565, in the meaning defined above


1579, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of scurvy was circa 1565

Dictionary Entries Near scurvy

Cite this Entry

“Scurvy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
scur·​vy ˈskər-vē How to pronounce scurvy (audio)
: a disease caused by lack of vitamin C and characterized by loosening of the teeth, softening of the gums, and bleeding under the skin


2 of 2 adjective
scurvier; scurviest
: contemptible, mean
a scurvy practice

Medical Definition


scur·​vy ˈskər-vē How to pronounce scurvy (audio)
plural scurvies
: a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C and characterized by spongy gums, loosening of the teeth, and bleeding into the skin and mucous membranes

called also scorbutus

More from Merriam-Webster on scurvy

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