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[smawl-poks] /ˈsmɔlˌpɒks/
noun, Pathology.
an acute, highly contagious, febrile disease, caused by the variola virus, and characterized by a pustular eruption that often leaves permanent pits or scars: eradicated worldwide by vaccination programs.
Origin of smallpox
1510-20; small + pox Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for smallpox
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Since vaccination had become general, smallpox cases had fallen by at least one-half.

    Social Transformations of the Victorian Age T. H. S. (Thomas Hay Sweet) Escott
  • Their expenses were enlarged, as were those of the other families, by an epidemic of smallpox.

    The Negro Farmer Carl Kelsey
  • Then she cried that she had got the smallpox—her back ached, her eyes ached—she must have the doctor.

    Her Season in Bath Emma Marshall
  • We neither think that love is as catching or as dangerous as the smallpox.

    Barrington Charles James Lever
  • If this law were faithfully carried out, smallpox would entirely disappear from the state within a few years.

    Rural Hygiene Henry N. Ogden
British Dictionary definitions for smallpox


an acute highly contagious viral disease characterized by high fever, severe prostration, and a pinkish rash changing in form from papules to pustules, which dry up and form scabs that are cast off, leaving pitted depressions Technical name variola, related adjective variolous
Word Origin
C16: from small + pox. So called to distinguish it from the Great Pox, an archaic name for syphilis
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for smallpox

acute, highly contagious disease, 1510s, small pokkes, as distinguished from great pox "syphillis;" from small-pock "pustule caused by smallpox" (mid-15c.); see small (adj.) + pox. Cf. French petite vérole. Fatal in a quarter to a third of unvaccinated cases.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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smallpox in Medicine

smallpox small·pox (smôl'pŏks')
An acute, highly infectious, often fatal disease caused by a poxvirus and characterized by high fever and aches with subsequent widespread eruption of papules that blister, produce pus, and form scabs that leave permanent pockmarks. Also called variola.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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smallpox in Science
A highly infectious and often fatal disease caused by the variola virus of the genus Orthopoxvirus and characterized by fever, headache, and severely inflamed skin sores that result in extensive scarring. Once a dreaded killer of children that caused the deaths of millions of Native Americans after the arrival of European settlers in the Americas, smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980 following a worldwide vaccination campaign. Samples of the virus have been preserved in laboratories in the United States and Russia. Also called variola. See Note at Jenner.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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smallpox in Culture

smallpox definition

An acute and infectious disease caused by a virus and now almost completely eradicated. Smallpox was characterized by high fever and large sores on the body that leave scars.

Note: A surface with many blemishes is sometimes said to be “pockmarked” because it resembles the skin of a smallpox sufferer.
Note: Smallpox is the first disease of humans to be completely eradicated by a worldwide campaign of inoculation.
Note: Today, the smallpox virus exists only in laboratories.
Note: The use of smallpox is a major concern in the area of bioterrorism.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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