a. A highly infectious epidemic disease, especially one with a high rate of fatality; a pestilence.
b. A virulent, infectious disease that is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis (syn. Pasteurella pestis) and is transmitted primarily by the bite of fleas from an infected rodent, especially a rat. In humans it occurs in bubonic form, marked by lymph node enlargement, and in pneumonic form, marked by infection of the lungs, and can progress to septicemia.
a. A widespread affliction or calamity seen as divine retribution.
b. An influx or large number of destructive or unwanted things, especially animals: “The vines flourished, the only problem being a plague of jackrabbits” (Paul Lukacs).
c. Something that causes persistent hardship, trouble, or annoyance: “The plague of every funnyman's success is that deep down, almost everyone thinks they know forty guys funnier” (Ross Vachon).
tr.v. plagued, plagu·ing, plagues
1. To pester or annoy persistently or incessantly. See Synonyms at harass.
a. To cause suffering or hardship for: “Runaway inflation further plagued the wage- or salary-earner” (Edwin O. Reischauer).
b. To be a widespread or continuous problem or defect in: Confusing jargon plagues the entire subject.
[Middle English plage, blow, calamity, plague, from Late Latin plāga, from Latin, blow, wound; see plāk-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots. V., Middle English plaghen, from Middle Dutch, from plaghe, plague, from Late Latin plāga.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.