"chicken pox"--why "chicken"?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun May 13 12:02:01 UTC 2001

>     Would anyone have any idea at all why "chicken" turns up in "chicken
> pox"?

Compare the analogous disease names cowpox, horsepox, rabbitpox, monkeypox,
swine pox, goat pox, fowl pox, etc., etc. ...

Some of these can infect humans; for example, cowpox (a disease of cows)
causes a mild disease in humans and was the basis of the original smallpox

It sure looks like chickenpox once was thought to be a disease contracted
by and from chickens. I think one of the OED citations speculates along
this line.

-- Doug Wilson

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