When you grow some cultures in your farm you need to use some products against some "unfriendly" things that might harm your crops.

  • Fungicides are used to kill fungi or fungal spores.
  • Insecticides are used to kill insects.
  • Herbicides are are meant to control weeds.

What word could be used for generalization of the words that I have bolded?

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    Herbicides are used to control weeds. Jun 21, 2017 at 14:06
  • @PeterShor Sorry? Jun 21, 2017 at 14:10
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    Pesticide is a general term used to cover chemicals that kill harmful things, including fungus, insects, and weeds. So dividing these chemicals into fungicides, insecticides, pesticides is really misleading. Jun 21, 2017 at 14:24
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    I'd say "pests" is likely what you want, and it's not limited to noxious plants. Fungicides kill fungi, Insecticides kill insects, herbicides kill plants (herbaceous things). All three fall under the general category of "pesticides", which kill, well, pests.
    – R.M.
    Jun 21, 2017 at 14:58
  • Based upon the question as you've written it, it sounds like you're asking what the common terms is for "fungi or fungal spores, insects, and weeds", not for the chemicals that kill them. If you intend to ask about the communal chemical (as the accepted answer suggests), seems you should change your bolding to reflect that? Jun 21, 2017 at 17:04

6 Answers 6


I think your definition for the term pesticide is perhaps too narrow.

Per Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, 2nd Ed., pesticide is defined as (p. 865):

a poison used to destroy pests of any sort

And it defines pest (p. 865) as

an organism that injures, irritates, or damages livestock or crops

Therefore, I think your answer for the general word is pesticide.

See also this comprehensive definition in Wikipedia for pesticide.

Pesticides are substances that are meant to control pests or weeds.[1] The term pesticide includes all of the following: herbicide, insecticide, insect growth regulator, nematicide, termiticide, molluscicide, piscicide, avicide, rodenticide, predacide, bactericide, insect repellent, animal repellent, antimicrobial, fungicide, disinfectant (antimicrobial), and sanitizer.[2] The most common of these are herbicides which account for approximately 80% of all pesticide use.[3] Most pesticides are intended to serve as plant protection products (also known as crop protection products), which in general, protect plants from weeds, fungi, or insects.

There is also the word biocide, which is not as much in general use. It is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

a substance (such as an algicide or fungicide) that destroys or inhibits the growth or activity of living organisms

It is a term used by environmental groups, such as in this post by the Green Party of California.

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    Adding anecdotal support for this answer: I do research into resistance to crop fungicides and it's common in the field to use pesticides as an umbrella term for chemicals that target pests and pathogens Jun 21, 2017 at 15:36
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    I'm sure you know this, but your answer doesn't make it quite clear enough to suit me. "Biocide" is a much broader term than "pesticide". A biocide can kill any living thing, not just pests and things that cause damage. Jun 21, 2017 at 17:01
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    Exactly. That's why I think a clarification is warranted, @Hank. Jun 21, 2017 at 17:18
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    I totally missed the biocide suggestion in the answer. I thought you were suggesting it. I would also have to say the answer should be suggesting "pest", not "pesticide". The OP asked for the term that describes the things hurting your crops, not the term for things that hurt the things hurting your crops. It can be fixed with a simple rewording, though.
    – Hank
    Jun 21, 2017 at 17:20
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    I answered before a couple of edits were made to the question. You're right pest is the word that the OP wants. I just didn't have time to edit my answer to fit the edited question. (You can look at the questioner's edits.) I would not use the term biocide at all.
    – JLG
    Jun 21, 2017 at 17:29

You could possibly call those bolded works blights:


noun, BrE

  • a person or thing that mars or prevents growth, improvement, or prosperity.


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    Not a good suggestion. "Blight" is a term used for a specific class of plant disease - typically those caused by fungi such as mildews, rusts, and smuts Jun 22, 2017 at 12:55
  • @Tullochgorum That is one use of it, yes.
    – Hank
    Jun 22, 2017 at 12:56
  • Hank - it's the dominant usage, by far. To use "blight" to refer to any other form of plant disease would almost certainly cause misunderstanding. Jun 22, 2017 at 13:00
  • @Tullochgorum Dominant where? Do you have evidence supporting your universal claim that it is dominant everywhere? Despite it being a BrE usage, I've heard it used very often in the southern US, where farming is very prevalent. While I am aware of the other usage, I have seen nothing that makes it the only usage.
    – Hank
    Jun 22, 2017 at 13:03

I can't think of a single word that neatly and unambiguously fits your description. The best words that I can think of are more generic than your specific usage, and refer to the organisms being unwanted, an annoyance and likely to cause harm. If you use these, you would probably have to define what you meant first. You could use words such as:

I would put the word blight under this type of word, but add a note of caution to its use. There are several plant diseases (fungal infections, I think) that are called blight (e.g. potato blight), so this may be what people take it to mean.

You could also use words that imply a large number of organisms causing damage, such as:

But, probably the best word to use would just be pests as this doesn't have to be limited to animal pests.


You could use the word parasite.

an organism living in, with, or on another organism in parasitism


an intimate association between organisms of two or more kinds; especially : one in which a parasite obtains benefits from a host which it usually injures

Since all of the organisms you mention benefit from feeding off the crops (or, in the case of weeds, competing for sunlight and water) to the detriment of the crops, you could say that the fungi, insects, and weeds are all parasites.

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    Parasitism implies taking resources directly from a living thing. Merely consuming a resource also needed by something is not parasitism. (Were this the case, someone in front of you grabbing the last turkey out of the freezer at your grocery store at Thanksgiving might be called a parasite.) Jun 21, 2017 at 20:37

The Illinois farmers and agronomists my shop has interviewed tend to use the term pressure as a generic for all the factors which threaten yield: 'weed pressure', 'disease pressure', 'drought pressure', 'wildlife pressure', and so forth.


Plague and Pestilence is a common phrase to describe forces that usually ravage a farm if not a countryside, or even a whole country. It couples nicely with famine and war as well as loot and plunder.

Things that prevent growth and usually kill what is already there in a generalized sense would be a blight. While it may be defined for the prevention of growth, it almost always implies that it also kills or destroys what is already there. There are some popular phrases that use blight, like encroaching blight.

I would choose one of these two, depending on the context, preferring blight.

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