"bubonic/pneumonic plague epidemic of 1347-51 in Europe," a modern name, introduced in English 1823 by Elizabeth Penrose's history of England. The contemporary name for it in most languages was something like "the great dying" or simply "the plague" (or, looking back after its return, "the first pestilence"). The term "Black Death" first turns up in 16c. Swedish and Danish chronicles, but in reference to a visitation of plague in Iceland (which had been spared in the earlier outbreak) in 1402-3 that carried off much of the population there. The exact sense of "black" is not clear. The term appears in English translations of the Scandinavian works from 1750s. It was picked up in German c. 1770 and applied to the earlier outbreak, and taken from there into English in that sense.
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