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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]

Surface analysis is pest +‎ -iferous (bearing, carrying).



pestiferous (comparative more pestiferous, superlative most pestiferous)

  1. containing organisms that cause contagious diseases
    • 1589: Richard Hakluyt, The Principal Navigations
      because he hath vouchsafed to preserue our nation from such fountains, from serpents and venemous wormes, & from al other pestiferous & contagious creatures.
    • 1792: Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
      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!
    • 1853: Charles Dickens, Bleak House
      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
    • 1592: William Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part 1
      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. ^ pestiferous” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2018.