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Noun usage possibly from the adjective scurvy influenced by or a variant of scurfy. Took on meaning of Dutch scheurbuik, French scorbut (scurvy), possibly from Old Norse skyrbjúgr, skyr (sour milk) + bjúgr (swelling, tumour), from the verb bjúga (to bend), whence Icelandic skyrbjúgur (scurvy) and Swedish skörbjugg (scurvy).

Compare German Scharbock, Late Latin scorbutus. More at sour, bow.

Or, equivalent to scurf (flakes on the surface of the skin) +‎ -y.[1]



scurvy (usually uncountable, plural scurvies)

  1. (pathology) A disease caused by insufficient intake of vitamin C, leading to the formation of livid spots on the skin, spongy gums, loosening of the teeth and bleeding into the skin and from almost all mucous membranes.
    • 2012 March, William E. Carter, Merri Sue Carter, “The British Longitude Act Reconsidered”, in American Scientist[1], volume 100, number 2, page 87:
      Conditions were horrendous aboard most British naval vessels at the time. Scurvy and other diseases ran rampant, killing more seamen each year than all other causes combined, including combat.
  2. A scurvy (adjective) individual


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scurvy (comparative scurvier, superlative scurviest)

  1. Covered or affected with scurf or scabs; scabby; scurfy; specifically, diseased with the scurvy.
  2. Contemptible, despicable, low, disgustingly mean.
    a scurvy trick; a scurvy knave
    • 1610–1611 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene ii]:
      What a pied ninny's this! Thou scurvy patch!
    • 1709, [Jonathan Swift], A Project for the Advancement of Religion, and the Reformation of Manners. [], London: [] Benj[amin] Tooke, [], →OCLC, page 29:
      And among other Regulations it would be very convenient to prevent the Exceſs of Drink, with that ſcurvy Cuſtom among the Lads, and Parent of the former Vice, the taking of Tobacco, where it is not abſolutely neceſſary in Point of Health.


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