vir·​u·​lent | \ ˈvir-ə-lənt How to pronounce virulent (audio) , ˈvir-yə-\

Definition of virulent

1a : marked by a rapid, severe, and destructive course a virulent infection
b : able to overcome bodily defensive mechanisms : markedly pathogenic virulent bacteria
2 : extremely poisonous or venomous
3 : full of malice : malignant virulent racists
4 : objectionably harsh or strong virulent criticism

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from virulent

virulently adverb

Examples of virulent in a Sentence

The country seemed to be returning to the virulent nationalism of its past. the virulent look on her face warned me that she was about to say something unkind

Recent Examples on the Web

But the virulent disease is back, with more than 1,000 cases confirmed nationwide this year through June 3 — the greatest number since 1992. Kaiser Health News,, "Measles outbreaks require meticulous detective work to halt the spread," 15 June 2019 Ebola is a virus that causes an especially deadly and virulent form of hemorrhagic fever. NBC News, "What is Ebola? What to know about symptoms, vaccine, outbreaks," 12 June 2019 Known as virulent Newcastle disease, the virus poses no food safety concerns and essentially no human health concerns. Jaclyn Cosgrove,, "To stop a virus, California has euthanized more than 1.2 million birds. Is it reckless or necessary?," 7 June 2019 What about the fact that Margaret Court is a virulent and unapologetic homophobe? Jon Wertheim,, "Mailbag: Federer-Nadal XXXIX, French Open Court Assignments, Anisimova and More," 5 June 2019 Videos claiming that Jews secretly control the world—which are common on the site, and make up the backbone of numerous virulent conspiracy theories such as QAnon—will be removed, a YouTube spokesperson told the New York TImes. Paris Martineau, WIRED, "How Effective Will YouTube Be in Its Latest Ban on Extremism?," 5 June 2019 These amphibians likely harbored the fungus, allowing it to become more virulent and spread to others not adapted to it. Joanna Klein, New York Times, "Frog-Killing Fungus Found to Have Origins on Korean Peninsula," 10 May 2018 The pattern did not obtain in the pandemic of 1918-19 or, for that matter, in the much more limited flu of 2009, both of which were caused by a virulent H1N1 strain of the virus. William F. Bynum, WSJ, "‘Pandemic 1918’ and ‘Influenza’ Review: Fire, Ice or Virus?," 4 Jan. 2019 There are a small percentage of the American people, virulent people, some of them the dregs of society. Fox News, "Kavanaugh to speak to Senate Judiciary Committee staffers," 18 Sep. 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of virulent

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for virulent

Middle English, from Latin virulentus, from virus poison

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about virulent

Dictionary Entries near virulent








Statistics for virulent

Last Updated

4 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for virulent

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for virulent



English Language Learners Definition of virulent

: full of hate or anger
: extremely or excessively harsh or strong
: extremely dangerous and deadly and usually spreading very quickly


vir·​u·​lent | \ ˈvir-ə-lənt How to pronounce virulent (audio) \

Kids Definition of virulent

: spreading quickly and causing serious harm a virulent disease


vir·​u·​lent | \ -lənt How to pronounce virulent (audio) \

Medical Definition of virulent

1a : marked by a rapid, severe, and malignant course a virulent infection
b : able to overcome bodily defense mechanisms a virulent pathogen
2 : extremely poisonous or venomous : noxious

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on virulent

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for virulent

Spanish Central: Translation of virulent

Nglish: Translation of virulent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of virulent for Arabic Speakers

Comments on virulent

What made you want to look up virulent? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


food or victuals

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!