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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ In mediaeval times cider was given to sailors bound on long voyages partly as a palliative for scurvy.
▪ Once the rainy season began in April, malaria, yellow fever, typhoid and scurvy began to take their toll.
▪ The worst symptoms of scurvy were under control, although the fatigue and bruising persisted.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Scurvy \Scur"vy\, n. [Probably from the same source as scorbute, but influenced by scurf, scurfy, scurvy, adj.; cf. D. scheurbuik scurvy, G. scharbock, LL. scorbutus. Cf. Scorbute.] (Med.) A disease characterized by livid spots, especially about the thighs and legs, due to extravasation of blood, and by spongy gums, and bleeding from almost all the mucous membranes. It is accompanied by paleness, languor, depression, and general debility. It is occasioned by confinement, innutritious food, and hard labor, but especially by lack of fresh vegetable food, or confinement for a long time to a limited range of food, which is incapable of repairing the waste of the system. It was formerly prevalent among sailors and soldiers.

Scurvy grass [Scurvy + grass; or cf. Icel. skarfak[=a]l scurvy grass.] (Bot.) A kind of cress ( Cochlearia officinalis) growing along the seacoast of Northern Europe and in arctic regions. It is a remedy for the scurvy, and has proved a valuable food to arctic explorers. The name is given also to other allied species of plants.


Scurvy \Scur"vy\, a. [Compar. Scurvier; superl. Scurviest.]

  1. Covered or affected with scurf or scabs; scabby; scurfy; specifically, diseased with the scurvy. ``Whatsoever man . . . be scurvy or scabbed.''
    --Lev. xxi. 18, 20.

  2. Vile; mean; low; vulgar; contemptible. ``A scurvy trick.''
    --Ld. Lytton.

    That scurvy custom of taking tobacco.

    [He] spoke spoke such scurvy and provoking terms.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1560s, noun use of adjective scurvy "covered with scabs, diseased, scorbutic" (early 15c.), variant of scurfy. It took on the narrower meaning of Dutch scheurbuik, French scorbut "scurvy," in reference to the disease characterized by swollen and bleeding gums, prostration, etc., perhaps from Old Norse skyrbjugr, which is perhaps literally "a swelling (bjugr) from drinking sour milk (skyr) on long sea voyages;" but OED has alternative etymology of Middle Dutch or Middle Low German origin, as "disease that lacerates the belly," from schoren "to lacerate" + Middle Low German buk, Dutch buik "belly."


a. 1 Covered or affected with scurf or scabs; scabby; scurfy; specifically, diseased with the scurvy. 2 contemptible, despicable, low, disgustingly mean. n. (context disease English) 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.

  1. n. a condition caused by deficiency of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) [syn: scorbutus]

  2. [also: scurviest, scurvier]

  1. adj. of the most contemptible kind; "abject cowardice"; "a low stunt to pull"; "a low-down sneak"; "his miserable treatment of his family"; "You miserable skunk!"; "a scummy rabble"; "a scurvy trick" [syn: abject, low, low-down, miserable, scummy]

  2. [also: scurviest, scurvier]


Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C. Humans and certain other animal species require vitamin C in their diets for the synthesis of collagen. In infants, scurvy is sometimes referred to as Barlow's disease, named after Sir Thomas Barlow, a British physician who described it in 1883. However, Barlow's disease may also refer to mitral valve prolapse. Other eponyms for scurvy include Moeller's disease and Cheadle's disease. The chemical name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is derived from the Latin name of scurvy, scorbutus, which also provides the adjective scorbutic ("of, characterized by or having to do with scurvy").

Typical symptoms of scurvy are initially fatigue, followed by formation of spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from the mucous membranes. Spots are most abundant on the thighs and legs, and a person may look pale, feel depressed, and be partially immobilized. As scurvy advances, there can be open, suppurating wounds, loss of teeth, yellow skin, fever, neuropathy and finally death from bleeding.

Treatment is by a vitamin C-rich diet, whereby complete recovery from incipient scurvy takes less than two weeks. Vitamin C is widespread in plant tissues, with particularly high concentrations occurring in capsicum fruit (especially sweet green peppers), cruciferous vegetables (such as kale, broccoli and brussels sprouts), and citrus fruits (especially oranges). Organ meats such as liver contain more vitamin C than muscle meat. Cooking significantly reduces the concentration of vitamin C as does exposure to air, copper, iron, and other transition metal salts.

Scurvy does not occur in most animals as they can synthesize their own vitamin C. However, humans and other higher primates, guinea pigs, most or all bats, and some species of birds and fish lack an enzyme necessary for such synthesis and must obtain vitamin C through their diets.

Historically, Hippocrates (c. 460 BCE–c. 380 BCE) described scurvy, and herbal cures for scurvy have been known in many native cultures since prehistory. Nevertheless, treatment was inconsistent, and scurvy was one of the limiting factors of marine travel, often killing large numbers of the passengers and crew on long-distance voyages. While there is earlier evidence (from the voyages of Vasco da Gama and James Lancaster, for example) that citrus fruit had a curative effect on scurvy, it was a Scottish surgeon in the Royal Navy, James Lind, who first proved it could be treated with citrus fruit in experiments he described in his 1753 book A Treatise of the Scurvy. These experiments in fact represented the world's first clinical trial. Unfortunately no prominence was given to this finding in a book which was long and contradictory. Lind's findings did not conform to the theories of his time, that scurvy was the result of poor digestion and the consumption of preserved meat and moldy water, and as a result had little impact on medical thinking. It would be 40 years before practical seamen and surgeons insisted on issuing lemon juice and effective prevention became widespread. Scurvy remained a problem during expeditions and in wartime until the mid-20th century.

Usage examples of "scurvy".

It learned from a monk how to use antimony, from a Jesuit how to cure agues, from a friar how to cut for stone, from a soldier how to treat gout, from a sailor how to keep off scurvy, from a postmaster how to sound the Eustachian tube, from a dairy-maid how to prevent small-pox, and from an old marketwoman how to catch the itch-insect.

Invalids have often preferred this plant to the Scurvy grass as an antiscorbutic remedy.

Hence, it frequently accompanies purpura or land scurvy and rheumatism.

Strength of the Scorching Sun stinks and poisons the distrest Mariners, who are rendered unactive, and disabled by Scurvies, raging and mad with Calentures and Fevers, and drop into Death in such a Manner, that at last the Living are lost, for Want of the Dead, that is, for want of Hands to work the Ship.

Nentres of Garlot am I, and I come To fight with thee if thou wilt league with me Against the wittol that has filched the crown Of England, backed by scurvy sorcery.

The juice of young agave leaves is also used medicinally when signs of impending scurvy are detected.

Malo on the day when I was examining there the relics of the vessel which Cartier was obliged to leave in the Canadian river, because so many of his men had died of scurvy and exposure that he had not sufficient crew to man the three ships home.

So now your scurvy is still mild whereas the others are constantly hemorrhaging, their bowels diarrhetic, their eyes sore and rheumy, and their teeth lost or loose in their heads.

When Pistol appears, Fluellen, with mock politeness, greets him as a scurvy, lousy knave.

Reid Senior had combined these resources to grow the tart, round marshberries that were prized by sailors for staving off scurvy and by healers as a key ingredient in many of their preparations.

They had mastwood and they had scurvy and the High Arm is easily accessible by sea.

The fresh juice of Oranges is antiseptic, and will prevent scurvy if taken in moderation daily.

Its beneficial uses in scurvy, are due to the potash salts which it contains.

For Les Six not only inveigled the assembled gentlemen of Pryggia and Ozar into a turbulent drinking contest, but then, drunkenness rampant, proceeded to embellish their respective insults with such rococo flourishes, such baroque ornamentation, as to produce in but two minutes such a brawl as would shame the lowest alehouses of the scurviest ports in the world.

Scurvy, the worst enemy of Polar expeditions, must be kept off at all costs, and to achieve this it was my intention to use fresh meat every day.