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Uncertain, however given that it was used at one point to refer to inflammation of the skin [1], quite possibly from Middle English *bleighte, *bleȝte, from Old English blǣcþa (leprosy) (related to Old English blǣċo (paleness, leprosy) and blǣċe (an itching skin-disease)); or from Old Norse blikna (to grow pallid).[2] Related to bleak.



blight (countable and uncountable, plural blights)

  1. (phytopathology) A rapid and complete chlorosis, browning, then death of plant tissues such as leaves, branches, twigs, or floral organs.
    • 1922, William H. Ukers, All About Coffee[1]:
      A blight in 1855–56 set back the industry, many plantations being ruined and then given over to sugar cane. After the blight had disappeared, the plantations were re-established, and prosperity continued for years.
  2. The bacterium, virus or fungus that causes such a condition.
  3. (by extension) Anything that impedes growth or development or spoils any other aspect of life.
    • 1846 October 1 – 1848 April 1, Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son, London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1848, OCLC 145080417:
      He saw her image in the blight and blackness all around him, not irradiating but deepening the gloom.
    • 1902, John Buchan, The Outgoing of the Tide
      She moved about the country like a ghost, gathering herbs in dark loanings, lingering in kirkyairds, and casting a blight on innocent bairns.

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Derived terms[edit]



blight (third-person singular simple present blights, present participle blighting, simple past and past participle blighted)

  1. (transitive) To affect with blight; to blast; to prevent the growth and fertility of.
    • 1695, John Woodward, An Essay toward a Natural History of the Earth and Terrestrial Bodies, especially Minerals, &c:
      [This vapour] blasts vegetables, blights corn and fruit, and is sometimes injurious even to Men.
  2. (intransitive) To suffer blight.
    This vine never blights.
  3. (transitive) To spoil, ruin, or destroy (something).
    Those obscene tattoos are going to blight your job prospects.
    • 1814, Lord Byron, The Corsair:
      that lone and blighted bosom sears
    • 1841, Catherine Sinclair, Modern Flirtations[2]:
      Even he, cold and indifferent as he is, shall repent! I shall blight his hopes, as he has blighted mine.
    • 1869 May, Anthony Trollope, “Lady Milborough as Ambassador”, in He Knew He Was Right, volume I, London: Strahan and Company, [], OCLC 1118026626, page 81:
      I need hardly explain to you that if you persist in this refusal you and I cannot continue to live together as man and wife. All my hopes and prospects in life will be blighted by such a separation.
    • 1876, Mark Twain [pseudonym; Samuel Langhorne Clemens], The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Hartford, Conn.: The American Publishing Company, OCLC 1000326417, page 40:
      [] would she drop one little tear upon his poor, lifeless form, would she heave one little sigh to see a bright young life so rudely blighted, so untimely cut down?

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Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ blight”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2021), “blight”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.