a. An appeal or prayer for evil or misfortune to befall someone or something.
b. Evil or misfortune viewed as resulting from such an appeal: believed that the amulet would ward off curses.
2. A source or cause of evil; a scourge: “Selfishness is the greatest curse of the human race” (William Ewart Gladstone).
3. A profane word or phrase; a swearword.
4. Ecclesiastical A censure, ban, or anathema.
5. Offensive Menstruation. Used with the.
v. cursedor curst (kûrst), curs·ing, curs·es
1. To invoke evil or misfortune upon; damn.
2. To swear at: cursed the car because it wouldn't start.
3. To bring evil upon; afflict: was cursed with crippling arthritis.
4. Ecclesiastical To put under a ban or anathema; excommunicate.
To utter curses; swear.
[Middle English, from Old English curs, probably from Medieval Latin cursus, daily set of liturgical prayers, set of imprecations read in church four times in the year and imposing automatic excommunication for certain sins, from Latin, course; see COURSE.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.