blight (n.)

1610s, "influence, usually hidden or inconspicuous, that nips, blasts, or destroys plants," a word of obscure origin; according to OED it emerged into literary speech from the talk of gardeners and farmers.

It is perhaps from Old English blæce, blæcðu, a scrofulous skin condition and/or from Old Norse blikna "become pale" (from the group including bleach, bleak, etc.). The word came to be used in a general way of agricultural diseases, with or without suggestion of invisible baleful influence; hence the figurative sense of "anything which withers hopes or prospects or checks prosperity" (1660s). Compare slang blighter. Urban blight "condition of disrepair and poverty in a previously thriving part of a city" is attested by 1935.

blight (v.)

"afflict with blight, cause to wither or decay," 1660s (implied in blighted), from blight (n.). Figurative sense of "exert a baleful influence on" is by 1712. Related: Blighted; blighting.

updated on October 15, 2022