1530s (earlier lepruse, mid-15c.), from leprous; see leper. First used in Coverdale Bible, where it renders Hebrew cara'ath, which apparently was a comprehensive term for skin diseases. Because of pejorative associations, the use of the word in medical context has been banned by the World Health Organization and replaced by Hansen's disease, named for Norwegian physician Armauer Hansen (1841-1912) who in 1871 discovered the bacillus that causes it.
leprosy lep·ro·sy (lěp'rə-sē)
A chronic, mildly contagious granulomatous disease of tropical and subtropical regions, caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae, characterized by ulcers of the skin, bone, and viscera and leading to loss of sensation, paralysis, gangrene, and deformation. It occurs in two principal types: lepromatous and tuberculoid. Also called Hansen's disease.
A chronic and infectious disease, characterized by patches of altered skin and nerve tissue (lesions) that gradually spread to cause muscle weakness, deformities, and paralysis. Some forms of antibiotics are now used to treat this disease, and plastic surgery can help correct the deformities it causes. Also called Hansen's disease.
Note: Leprosy has been well known since ancient times, when widespread fear of those afflicted with the disease caused them to be treated as outcasts. Today, the term leper is often used to refer to a person excluded from society.
(Heb. tsara'ath, a "smiting," a "stroke," because the disease was regarded as a direct providential infliction). This name is from the Greek lepra, by which the Greek physicians designated the disease from its scaliness. We have the description of the disease, as well as the regulations connected with it, in Lev. 13; 14; Num. 12:10-15, etc. There were reckoned six different circumstances under which it might develop itself, (1) without any apparent cause (Lev. 13:2-8); (2) its reappearance (9-17); (3) from an inflammation (18-28); (4) on the head or chin (29-37); (5) in white polished spots (38, 39); (6) at the back or in the front of the head (40-44). Lepers were required to live outside the camp or city (Num. 5:1-4; 12:10-15, etc.). This disease was regarded as an awful punishment from the Lord (2 Kings 5:7; 2 Chr. 26:20). (See MIRIAM ØT0002562; GEHAZI ØT0001452; UZZIAH.) This disease "begins with specks on the eyelids and on the palms, gradually spreading over the body, bleaching the hair white wherever they appear, crusting the affected parts with white scales, and causing terrible sores and swellings. From the skin the disease eats inward to the bones, rotting the whole body piecemeal." "In Christ's day no leper could live in a walled town, though he might in an open village. But wherever he was he was required to have his outer garment rent as a sign of deep grief, to go bareheaded, and to cover his beard with his mantle, as if in lamentation at his own virtual death. He had further to warn passers-by to keep away from him, by calling out, 'Unclean! unclean!' nor could he speak to any one, or receive or return a salutation, since in the East this involves an embrace." That the disease was not contagious is evident from the regulations regarding it (Lev. 13:12, 13, 36; 2 Kings 5:1). Leprosy was "the outward and visible sign of the innermost spiritual corruption; a meet emblem in its small beginnings, its gradual spread, its internal disfigurement, its dissolution little by little of the whole body, of that which corrupts, degrades, and defiles man's inner nature, and renders him unmeet to enter the presence of a pure and holy God" (Maclear's Handbook O.T). Our Lord cured lepers (Matt. 8:2, 3; Mark 1:40-42). This divine power so manifested illustrates his gracious dealings with men in curing the leprosy of the soul, the fatal taint of sin.