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Etymology 1

PIE word
PIE word
A scourge (noun sense 1) exhibited in a museum.

From Middle English scourge (a lash, whip, scourge; affliction, calamity; person who causes affliction or calamity; shoot of a vine),[1] and then either:



scourge (plural scourges)

  1. (weaponry, chiefly historical) A whip, often made of leather and having multiple tails; a lash.
    He flogged him with a scourge.
    • 1535 October 14 (Gregorian calendar), Myles Coverdale, transl., Biblia: The Byble, [] (Coverdale Bible), [Cologne or Marburg]: [Eucharius Cervicornus and Johannes Soter?], →OCLC, Psalm lxxxviij:[31–32], folio xxvij, verso, column 1:
      Yf they breake myne ordinaunces, and kepe not my commaundementes. I vil vyſet their offences with the rodde, and their ſynnes with ſcourges.
      Psalm 89 in modern versions of the Bible.
    • 1609, The Holie Bible, [] (Douay–Rheims Bible), Doway: Lavrence Kellam, [], →OCLC, 2 Paralipomenon 10:11, page 886:
      My father layd vpon you a heauie yoke, vvhich I vvil make heauier: my father bette you vvith ſcourges, but I vvil beate you vvith ſcorpions.
      1 Kings 12 in modern versions of the Bible.
    • 1614–1615, Homer, “The Sixth Book of Homer’s Odysseys”, in Geo[rge] Chapman, transl., Homer’s Odysses. [], London: [] Rich[ard] Field [and William Jaggard], for Nathaniell Butter, published 1615, →OCLC; republished in The Odysseys of Homer, [], volume I, London: John Russell Smith, [], 1857, →OCLC, page 136, lines 111–113:
      Up to coach then goes / Th' observed Maid, takes both the scourge and reins, / And to her side her handmaid straight attains.
      The spelling has been modernized.
    • a. 1749 (date written), James Thomson, “Winter”, in The Seasons, London: [] A[ndrew] Millar, and sold by Thomas Cadell, [], published 1768, →OCLC, page 204, lines 1059–1061:
      [H]eaven-born truth, / And moderation fair, vvere the red marks / Of ſuperſtition's ſcourge: []
      A figurative use.
    • 1833 (date written), Alfred Tennyson, “St. Simeon Stylites”, in Poems. [], volume II, London: Edward Moxon, [], published 1842, →OCLC, page 61:
      Mortify / Your flesh, like me, with scourges and with thorns; / Smite, shrink not, spare not.
    • 1936, Rollo Ahmed, “The Church and Monastic Black Magic”, in The Black Art, London: Senate, Studio Editions, published 1994, →ISBN, page 99:
      Another strange manifestation of collective mental abnormality, though not directly connected with sorcery, was the Brotherhood of Flagellants. [] These men lashed themselves and each other unmercifully with knotted leather scourges until the blood ran, two or three times daily.
  2. (figurative)
    1. A person or thing regarded as an agent of divine punishment.
    2. A source of persistent (and often widespread) pain and suffering or trouble, such as a cruel ruler, disease, pestilence, or war.
      Graffiti is the scourge of building owners everywhere.

Etymology 2


From Middle English scourgen (to whip, scourge; to afflict; to punish),[4] and then either:

See further at etymology 1.



scourge (third-person singular simple present scourges, present participle scourging, simple past and past participle scourged) (transitive)

  1. To strike (a person, an animal, etc.) with a scourge (noun sense 1) or whip; to flog, to whip.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:whip
    • 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, [Act I, scene i], page 96, column 1:
      Hvng be yͤ heauens vvith black, yield day to night; / Comets importing change of Times and States, / Brandiſh your cryſtall Treſſes in the Skie, / And vvith them ſcourge the bad reuolting Stars, / That haue conſented vnto Henries Death: / King Henry the Fift, too famous to liue long, / England ne're loſt a King of ſo much vvorth.
      A figurative use.
    • 1603, Michel de Montaigne, “That the Taste of Goods or Evilles doth Greatly Depend on the Opinion We Have of Them”, in John Florio, transl., The Essayes [], book I, London: [] Val[entine] Simmes for Edward Blount [], →OCLC, page 133:
      Doe vve not vpon every good-friday, in ſundrie places, ſee a great number of men and vvomen, ſcourge and beate themſelves ſo long till they bruſe and teare their fleſh, even to the bones? I have often ſeene it my ſelfe, and that vvithout enchantment.
    • 1725, [Daniel Defoe], “Part I”, in A New Voyage Round the World, by a Course Never Sailed before. [], London: [] A[rthur] Bettesworth, []; and W. Mears, [], →OCLC, page 95:
      [] I cauſed him to be brought to the Geers, vvith a Halter about his Neck, and be ſoundly vvhipp'd; and indeed our People did ſcourge him ſeverely from Head to Foot; []
    • a. 1823 (date written), Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Charles the First. A Fragment.”, in William Michael Rossetti, editor, The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley: [], revised edition, volume II, London: E[dward] Moxon, Son, & Co., [], published 1870, →OCLC, Act I, scene ii, page 383:
      For the waves never menace heaven until / Scourged by the wind's invisible tyranny
    • 1854 July 4 (date delivered), Henry D[avid] Thoreau, “[Anti-Slavery and Reform Papers.] Slavery in Massachusetts.”, in A Yankee in Canada, with Anti-Slavery and Reform Papers, Boston, Mass.: Ticknor and Fields, published 1866, →OCLC, pages 108–109:
      If they vote, they do not send men to Congress on errands of humanity; but while their brothers and sisters are being scourged and hung for loving liberty, while—I might here insert all that slavery implies and is,—it is the mismanagement of wood and iron and stone and gold which concerns them.
    • a. 1874 (date written), Lord Lytton [i.e., Edward Bulwer-Lytton], chapter I, in [Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of] Lytton, editor, Pausanias the Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance [], volume I, London; New York, N.Y.: George Routledge and Sons [], published 1876, →OCLC, book II, page 137:
      "Nay, nay, let him pass," said the young Chian, Antagoras; "he will get scourged if he is too late. Perhaps, like the Persians, Pausanias wears false hair, and wishes the slave to dress it in honour of us."
    • 1892, A[ugustine] D[avid] Crake, “Witness to Jesus”, in The Victor’s Laurel. A Tale of School-life during the Tenth Persecution in Italy, Oxford, Oxfordshire; London: Mowbray & Co., →OCLC, page 112:
      The more thou scourgest me, the deeper thou scourgest my religion into me; there is One Whose Love assuages the pain.
  2. To drive, or force (a person, an animal, etc.) to move, with or as if with a scourge or whip.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book IV”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker []; [a]nd by Robert Boulter []; [a]nd Matthias Walker, [], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, →OCLC, lines 913–917:
      So judge thou ſtill, preſumptuous, till the wrauth, / Which thou incurr'ſt by flying, meet thy flight / Seavenfold, and ſcourge that wiſdom back to Hell, / Which taught thee yet no better, that no pain / Can equal anger infinite provok't.
    • 1812, [Walter Savage Landor], Count Julian: A Tragedy, London: [] [F]or John Murray, [], [b]y James Moyes, [], →OCLC, Act V, scene ii, page 96:
      Thou knowest not, and mayst thou never know, / How bitter is the tear that firy shame / Scourges and tortures from the soldier's eye.
  3. (figurative)
    1. To punish (a person, an animal, etc.); to chastise.
      • 1553, “The Primer: Or Book of Private Prayer, Needful to be Used of All Christians. [] [Sundry Godly Prayers for Divers Purposes.]”, in Joseph Ketley, editor, The Two Liturgies, A.D. 1549, and A.D. 1552: With Other Documents Set Forth by Authority in the Reign of King Edward VI. [], Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: [] University Press, published 1844, →OCLC, page 474:
        For a Patient and Thankful Heart in Sickness. Whom thou lovest, O Lord, him dost thou chasten, yea, every son that thou receivest, thou scourgest, and in so doing thou offerest thyself unto him, as a father unto his son. For what son is whom the father chasteneth not?
      • c. 1597 (date written), [William Shakespeare], The History of Henrie the Fourth; [], quarto edition, London: [] P[eter] S[hort] for Andrew Wise, [], published 1598, →OCLC, [Act V, scene ii], signature [I4], recto:
        He cals vs rebels, traitors, and vvill ſcourge / VVith haughtie armes this hatefull name in vs.
      • 1607, Thomas Dekker, “The Whore of Babylon. []”, in The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker [], volume II, London: John Pearson [], published 1873, →OCLC, page 256:
        You ſhall with rods of iron ſcourge theſe treaſons.
      • 1626 May 31 (Gregorian calendar), John Donne, “Sermon LXXVII. Preached at St. Paul’s, May 21, 1626.”, in Henry Alford, editor, The Works of John Donne, D.D., [], volume III, London: John W[illiam] Parker, [], published 1839, →OCLC, page 413:
        [T]he purgatory is before the indulgence, the correction is before mercy. He scourgeth every son whom he receiveth; first he scourges him, and then he receives him; [] as long as his love lasts, he corrects us, and as long as he corrects us, he loves us.
      • 1835, [Edward Bulwer-Lytton], “The Brawl”, in Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes. [], volume I, London: Saunders and Otley, [], →OCLC, book I (The Time, the Place, and the Men), page 42:
        Look at thy followers and clients: are they not cutting the throats of humble men by way of vengeance for the crime of a great one? But that is the way one patrician always scourges the insolence of another.
      • 1840, S[aint] Augustine [i.e., Augustine of Hippo], “The Third Book”, in E[dward] B[ouverie] Pusey, transl., The Confessions of S. Augustine. [] (Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, []; I), Oxford, Oxfordshire: John Henry Parker; London: J. G. F. and J. Rivington, →OCLC, paragraph [III].5, page 31:
        Upon how grievous iniquities consumed I myself, pursuing a sacrilegious curiosity, that having forsaken Thee, it might bring me to the treacherous abyss, and the beguiling service of devils, to whom I sacrific ed my evil actions, and in all these things thou didst scourge me! I dared even, while Thy solemnities were celebrated within the walls of Thy Church, to desire, and to compass a business, deserving death for its fruits, for which Thou scourgedst me with grievous punishments, []
      • 1876, Thomas Hardy, “Lychworth (continued)—The Anglebury Highway”, in The Hand of Ethelberta: A Comedy in Chapters [], volume II, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], →OCLC, page 282:
        God has got me in his power at last, and is going to scourge me for my bad doings—that's what is seems like.
      • 1877, Homer, “Book I”, in James A. Martling, transl., The Iliad of Homer. [], St. Louis, Mo.: The R. P. Studley Company, [], →OCLC, page 19, lines 453–454:
        Once thou verily hearkened unto my prayer aforetime, / Honoring me, and severely scourgedst the host of the Grecians!
    2. To cause (someone or something) persistent (and often widespread) pain and suffering or trouble; to afflict, to torment.
      • 1642 April, John Milton, An Apology for Smectymnuus; republished in A Complete Collection of the Historical, Political, and Miscellaneous Works of John Milton, [], volume I, Amsterdam [actually London: s.n.], 1698, →OCLC, page 185:
        And that the Remonſtrant cannot vvaſh his hands of all the cruelties exercis'd by the Prelats, is paſt doubting. They ſcourg'd the Confeſſors of the Goſpel, and he held the Scourgers garments.
      • 1844 April 13, “The Last Days of the Plantagenets. Henry III.—Part II.”, in A[lexander] D. Paterson, editor, The Anglo American, volume 2, number 25, New York, N.Y.: E. L. Garvin & Co., →OCLC, pages 594–595:
        Thou hast, thyself, broken all laws, dissolved every tie; thou bruisest, scourgest, robbest this thy noble kingdom of England, and shall we not have at least the poor liberty to rail.
    3. (Scotland, agriculture) Of a crop or a farmer: to deplete the fertility of (land or soil).
Derived terms


  1. ^ scǒurǧe, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ scourge, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, July 2023.
  3. ^ scourge, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  4. ^ scǒurǧen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  5. ^ -en, suf.(3)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  6. 6.0 6.1 scourge, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2023.
  7. ^ scourge, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading