General English


  • noun a highly infectious, often fatal, bacterial disease of mammals, especially cattle and sheep, that is transmissible to humans and causes skin ulcers (cutaneous anthrax) or a form of pneumonia when inhaled (pulmonary anthrax)


  • noun a disease of cattle and sheep which can be transmitted to humans

Origin & History of “anthrax”

In Greek, anthrax means ‘coal’ (hence English anthracite (19th c.)). The notion of a burning coal led to its being applied metaphorically to a very severe boil or carbuncle, and that is how it was first used in English. It was not until the late 19th century that the word came into general use, when it was applied to the bacterial disease of animals that had been described by Louis Pasteur (which produces large ulcers on the body).