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Mid 15th century, in sense “mischievous, pernicious”, from Latin pestiferus (bearing plague), from pestifer, from pestis (plague) + ferre (carry) (see infer).[1]

By surface analysis, pest +‎ -i- (bearing, carrying) +‎ -ferous.



pestiferous (comparative more pestiferous, superlative most pestiferous)

  1. containing organisms that cause contagious diseases
    • 1589, Richard Hakluyt, The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation, [], London: [] George Bishop and Ralph Newberie, deputies to Christopher Barker, [], OCLC 753964576:
      because he hath vouchsafed to preserue our nation from such fountains, from serpents and venemous wormes, & from al other pestiferous & contagious creatures.
    • 1791 (date written), Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects, 1st American edition, Boston, Mass.: [] Peter Edes for Thomas and Andrews, [], published 1792, OCLC 5625662194:
      In these solemn moments man discovers the germ of those vices, which like the Java tree shed a pestiferous vapour around--death is in the shade!
    • 1852 March – 1853 September, Charles Dickens, Bleak House, London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1853, OCLC 999756093:
      and bears the body of our dear brother here departed to a hemmed-in churchyard, pestiferous and obscene, whence malignant diseases are communicated to the bodies of our dear brothers and sisters who have not departed...
    • 1952, Norman Lewis, Golden Earth:
      Wherever there is a vacant space the authorities have allowed refugees to put up pestiferous shacks, which now flank in unbroken lines the country roads leading into Rangoon, the railway tracks, and the shores of the Royal Lake.
  2. annoying, vexatious
    • 1591 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The First Part of Henry the Sixt”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, (please specify the act number in uppercase Roman numerals, and the scene number in lowercase Roman numerals):
      No, prelate; such is thy audacious wickedness, / Thy lewd, pestiferous, and dissentious pranks, / As very infants prattle of thy pride.
    • 1896: Mark Twain, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
      and if any could have hanged his hindering and pestiferous council and set him free, he would have answered Joan's prayer and set her in the field.
    • 1938: Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster, "Superman" in Action Comics #7, page 2:
      Lois rescues Clark from the pestiferous curly...


Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “pestiferous”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.