We all are familiar with the term “quarantine” aren’t we? It’s what everyone seems to be posting and talking about on social media. But this isn’t a term that came about amidst the covid-19 pandemic but has already been existing for a while now.  


This word actually stems from the Latin word “quadraginta” and the Italian word “quaranta” which both mean 40.  

The use of the word goes long back to the bubonic plague or what is also commonly known as the Black Death. It began in 1343 where this disease had killed almost one-third of Europe’s entire population within just three years. 


This was a historically tragic event that resulted in people taking extreme steps to try and battle the disease. 

Officials in the city of Ragusa (modern day Dubrovbik in Croatia) then passed a law establishing something called “trentino” (a 30 day period of isolation for ships arriving from the areas where the outbreak took place. 

Anyone breaking the law would be forced to practice this 30 day isolation. After noting the success from this method, many other cities started adopting similar measures.  


Within a century, the cities began extending the isolation period from 30 days to 40. This resulted in the change of the term from trentino to quarantino. And this is where we get our English term quarantine from. Although there is still debate on why the period extended from 30 to 40 days, many believe that there are biblical reasons for this.

This includes Jesus’ fast in the desert or the Lent: a religious observance in the Christian calendar that ends in six weeks before Easter. Some also believe that a period of 40 days was enough to burn the disease out.  


Even though this was the first time there was an official use of the term “quarantine”, people suggest that it’s usage in principle dates back to references in the Bible in regards to isolation of people suffering from leprosy.