The Black Death’s territorial origins are disputed. The pandemic originated either in Central Asia or East Asia, but its first definitive appearance was in Crimea in 1347. In English prior to the 18th century, the event was called the pestis or pestilentia, ‘pestilence’; epidemia, ‘epidemic’; mortalitas,’mortality’ The word ‘black’ was not used to describe the pandemic in English until the 1750s.
About Black Death in brief
The Black Death pandemic resulted in the deaths of up to 75–200 million people in Eurasia and North Africa, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. The plague created religious, social, and economic upheavals, with profound effects on the course of European history. The Black Death’s territorial origins are disputed. The pandemic originated either in Central Asia or East Asia, but its first definitive appearance was in Crimea in 1347. In English prior to the 18th century, the event was called the pestis or pestilentia, ‘pestilence’; epidemia, ‘epidemic’; mortalitas,’mortality’ The phrase ‘black death’ – describing Death as black – is very old. Homer used it in the Odyssey to describe the monstrous Scylla, with her mouths full of black Death. The phrase was used in 1350 by a Belgian astronomer to refer to a plague outbreak at a Feast of the Sun at a Saturnian temple. The historian Francis Aidan Gasquet claimed that use of the name at the 14th-century mors mors-mors refers to the fatal outcome of the plague and appears to refer only to the plague pandemic of the 1347 pandemic. In 1908, Francis Gasquet wrote about the name for the plague in his book The Great Plague of the Eastern World. He claimed that it had been the ordinary Eastern or bubonic plague and suggested that some form of the ordinary Great Pestsilence had been responsible.
The word ‘black’ was not used to describe the pandemic in English until the 1750s; the term is first attested in 1755, where it translated Danish: den sorte død, lit. ‘the black death’ This expression as a proper name for the plague had been popularised by Swedish and Danish chroniclers in the 15th and early 16th centuries, and in the 16th and 17th centuries was transferred to other languages as a calque: Icelandic: svarti dauði, German: der schwarze Tod, and French: la mort noire. In total, the plague may have reduced the world population from an estimated 475 million to 350–375 million in the14th century. There were further outbreaks throughout the Late Middle Ages, and with other contributing factors it took until 1500 for the European population to regain the levels of 1300. Outbreaks of the Plague recurred at various locations around the world until the early 19th century and the plague was not fully understood until the 20th century in Europe and the United States. The disease was caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. The Y. pestis infection most commonly results in bubonic Plague, but can also cause septicaemic or pneumonic plagues. It was most likely carried by fleas living on the black rats that travelled on Genoese merchant ships, spreading throughout the Mediterranean Basin and reaching Africa.