va·​ri·​o·​la | \ və-ˈrī-ə-lə How to pronounce variola (audio) , ˌver-ē-ˈō-lə How to pronounce variola (audio) \

Definition of variola

: smallpox also : its causative poxvirus (species Variola virus of the genus Orthopoxvirus)

Examples of variola in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The variola virus that caused smallpox was not only lethal but also highly contagious. William A. Haseltine, Forbes, 21 June 2022 The variola virus that causes smallpox and the monkeypox virus belong to the same family. Jacqueline Howard, CNN, 24 May 2022 But other viruses, including influenza and variola (pox) have been found in archaeological human remains as much as 400 years old, and Mühlemann says that others like herpes viruses, parvoviruses, and adenoviruses might be good candidates. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, 11 May 2018 Additional testing of the variola samples is under way to determine if the material in the vials is viable (i.e., can grow in tissue culture). Maryn Mckenna, WIRED, 8 July 2014

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

First Known Use of variola

1543, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for variola

borrowed from Medieval Latin, "pustule, pox," going back to Late Latin, "pustule," from varius "affected by pox, leprous" (adjective derivative of varus "pimple" + Latin -ola, variant of -ula -ule after vowels) — more at varix

Note: Late Latin varius is very likely independent of classical varius "having contrasting colors, varied" (see various entry 1).

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The first known use of variola was in 1543

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variola equina

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Last Updated

25 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Variola.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for variola


va·​ri·​o·​la | \ və-ˈrī-ə-lə How to pronounce variola (audio) \

Medical Definition of variola

: smallpox also : the poxvirus of the genus Orthopoxvirus (species Variola virus) that is the causative agent of smallpox


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