avoid like the plague
Commonly attributed to similar phrases in Latin used by the priest and theologian Saint Jerome (c. 347–420) in his letters, for example, “His igitur quasi quibusdam pestibus exterminatis veniamus ad eos, […]” (“Avoiding these [the Remnuoth, a class of monks in Egypt] then as though they were the plague, […]”), and “[N]egotiatorem clericum et ex inope divitem et ex ignobili gloriosum quasi quandem pestem fuge” (“Avoid, as you would the plague, a clergyman who is also a man of business, one who has risen from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to a high position”).
- (simile) To evade or shun, if at all possible.
Cliché should be avoided like the plague.
I’m one of those people who avoids confrontations like the plague.
1872 April, “A Ramble in Peru”, in I[saac] W[illiam] Wiley, editor, The Ladies’ Repository: A Monthly Periodical, Devoted to Literature and Religion, volume XXXII (New Series, volume IX), number 16, Cincinnati, Oh.: Hitchcock and Walden; New York, N.Y.: Carlton and Lanahan, OCLC 1732887, page 263, column 2:
- It is the country of countries where the people pass their lives in enjoying the dolce far niente. Hard work is a thing they hate, and carefully avoid like the plague.
1925, Musical News and Herald, London: The Musical News Syndicate, OCLC 62283851, page 389, column 1:
- Without posing as experts, we believe that the first essential to the efficient teacher of the young is a sense of direction, and that the danger to avoid like the plague is the patronage of the child. In both these respects, musicians in charge of orchestral concerts for children in this country fail miserably.
1992, Marcel Proust; C[harles] K[enneth] Scott Moncrieff, Terence Kilmartin and D[ennis] J[oseph] Enright, transl., “Part Two: Swann in Love”, in In Search of Lost Time: Volume 1: Swann’s Way, New York, N.Y.: The Modern Library, →ISBN, page 267:
- Evening dress was barred, because you were all "good pals" and didn't want to look like the "boring people" who were to be avoided like the plague and only asked to the big evenings, which were given as seldom as possible and then only if it would amuse the painter or make the musician better known.
1996, Elizabeth Smither, “The Journal of the Thirty-third Year: September 1975 – August 1976”, in The Journal Box, Auckland: Auckland University Press, →ISBN, page 4:
- A lot of things I'd like to talk about and I'm avoiding like the plague.
2003, Daniel J[oseph] Berrigan, “Letter to the Weathermen”, in Joy James, editor, Imprisoned Intellectuals: America’s Political Prisoners Write on Life, Liberation, and Rebellion (Transformative Politics Series), Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, →ISBN, part II (Internationalists and Anti-imperialists), page 245:
- [A] movement has historic meaning only insofar as it puts itself on the side of human dignity and the protection of life, even of the lives most unworthy of such respect. A revolution is interesting insofar as it avoids like the plague the plague it promised to heal.
- ^ Jerome; F[rederick] A[dam] Wright, transl. (1933), “Letter XXII: To Eustochium: The Virgin’s Profession. Written A.D. 384”, in Select Letters of St. Jerome: With an English Translation (Loeb Classical Library; 262), London: William Heinemann Ltd.; New York, N.Y.: G. P. Putnam's Sons, OCLC 493074652, pages 136–137.
- ^ Jerome; F[rederick] A[dam] Wright, transl. (1933), “Letter LII: To Nepotian: A Clergyman’s Duties”, in Select Letters of St. Jerome: With an English Translation (Loeb Classical Library; 262), London: William Heinemann Ltd.; New York, N.Y.: G. P. Putnam's Sons, OCLC 493074652, pages 200–201; Christine Ammer (2013), “avoid like the plague”, in The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, 2nd edition, Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, →ISBN, page 24, column 1.