If something makes people miserable or causes them great pain and torment, it's a scourge. A corrupt government is one kind of scourge, and a plague of insects that destroys a farmer's crops is another kind of scourge.

Dating from the 13th century, scourge originally meant "a whip used as punishment." It wasn't long until the figurative meaning of "something causing pain or misery" became even more common. A scourge tends to be something that causes folks to suffer terribly, whether it's a tsunami or unjust laws. You can also use this word as a verb: "Cutting the city's transportation budget will do nothing but scourge people without cars."

Definitions of scourge

n something causing misery or death

bane, curse, nemesis
Type of:
a cause of great suffering and distress

n a person who inspires fear or dread

terror, threat
Type of:
individual, mortal, person, somebody, someone, soul
a human being

n a whip used to inflict punishment (often used for pedantic humor)

Type of:
an instrument with a handle and a flexible lash that is used for whipping

v cause extensive destruction or ruin utterly

desolate, devastate, lay waste to, ravage, waste
reduce to ruins
Type of:
destroy, ruin
destroy completely; damage irreparably

v punish severely; excoriate

Type of:
penalise, penalize, punish, sanction
impose a penalty on; inflict punishment on

v whip

Type of:
flog, lash, lather, slash, strap, trounce, welt, whip
beat severely with a whip or rod

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.