Student Dictionary

2 entries found for quarantine.
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Main Entry: 1quar·an·tine
Pronunciation: primarystresskwodotr-schwan-secondarystresstemacronn, primarystresskwär-
Function: noun
Etymology: from Italian quaranténa "quarantine, period of forty days," probably from early French quarantaine "period of forty days," from earlier quarante "forty," from Latin quadraginta "forty," from quadra- "four"
1 : a period during which a ship arriving in port and suspected of carrying contagious disease is forbidden contact with the shore
2 : a limiting or forbidding of movements of persons or goods that is designed to prevent the spread of disease or pests
3 : the period during which a person with a contagious disease is under quarantine
4 : a place where persons are kept in quarantine
Word History As bad as contagious diseases are today, they were much more frightening in the Middle Ages. No effective treatment or cure was known then. When it was found out that ships could carry diseases from port to port, authorities acted to protect their citizens. Any ship suspected of carrying a disease was forced to remain offshore for a time. Usually about forty days had to pass before it was allowed to dock. Then if no signs of disease were found on the ship, it was allowed to unload its passengers and cargo. The Italians called this restriction period quaranténa. They based the word on a French word quarantaine, meaning "a period of forty days." This French word was derived from the Latin quadraginta, meaning "forty." It was the Italian word that was taken into English as quarantine in the 17th century.

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