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late 14c., "venomous substance," from Latin virus "poison, sap of plants, slimy liquid," probably from PIE root *weis- "to melt away, to flow," used of foul or malodorous fluids, with specialization in some languages to "poisonous fluid" (cf. Sanskrit visam "poison," visah "poisonous;" Avestan vish- "poison;" Latin viscum "sticky substance, birdlime;" Greek ios "poison," ixos "mistletoe, birdlime; Old Church Slavonic višnja "cherry;" Old Irish fi "poison;" Welsh gwy "fluid, water," gwyar "blood"). Main modern meaning "agent that causes infectious disease" first recorded 1728. The computer sense is from 1972.
virus vi·rus (vī'rəs)
n. pl. vi·rus·es
Any of various simple submicroscopic parasites of plants, animals, and bacteria that often cause disease and that consist essentially of a core of RNA or DNA surrounded by a protein coat. Unable to replicate without a host cell, viruses are typically not considered living organisms.
A disease caused by a virus.
Microorganisms consisting of DNA and RNA molecules wrapped in a protective coating of proteins. Viruses are the most primitive form of life. They depend on other living cells for their reproduction and growth. (See under “Medicine and Health.”)
Note: Viruses cause many diseases. (See viral infection.)
A minute organism that consists of a core of nucleic acid surrounded by protein. Viruses, which are so small that a special kind of microscope is needed to view them, can grow and reproduce only inside living cells. (See under “Life Sciences.”)
See computer virus.