- a microorganism, especially when disease-producing; microbe.
- a bud, offshoot, or seed.
- the rudiment of a living organism; an embryo in its early stages.
- the initial stage in development or evolution, as a germ cell or ancestral form.
- something that serves as a source or initial stage for subsequent development: the germ of an idea.
- Pathology. of, relating to, or caused by disease-producing germs.
Origin of germ
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for germ
And despite years of speculation, nobody has proved Assad has any germ warfare capability at all.Western Intelligence Suspects Assad Has a Secret Chemical Stockpile
Noah Shachtman, Christopher Dickey
May 1, 2014
Until Melching's organization started its three-year training program, no one knew the basics of germ theory—or its link to HIV.Don't Cut These Girls
March 11, 2010
The germ of the novel was an article in The Guardian highlighting the 50 to 60 bodies pulled from the Thames every year.London's Dark Underworld
February 9, 2010
I am positive the germ count in the dugout alone could be classified as an occupational hazard.Why I'm Thrilled Baseball Is Over
November 6, 2009
Yet she did not know that she was crushing out the germ which might have grown in his heart.Ester Ried Yet Speaking
In that instant was planted the second germ of unhappiness in Hetty's bosom.Hetty's Strange History
There, in the family of Adam, is the germ of the rule in the tribe,--the state.Slavery Ordained of God
Rev. Fred A. Ross, D.D.
It implies a pre-existing something, inwrapped as a germ in its environment.Life: Its True Genesis
R. W. Wright
This germ is always in the blood of members of the same family.
- a microorganism, esp one that produces disease in animals or plants
- (often plural) the rudimentary or initial form of somethingthe germs of revolution
- a simple structure, such as a fertilized egg, that is capable of developing into a complete organism
Word Origin and History for germ
mid-15c., "bud, sprout;" 1640s, "rudiment of a new organism in an existing one," from Middle French germe "germ (of egg); bud, seed, fruit; offering," from Latin germen (genitive germinis) "sprout, bud," perhaps from PIE root *gen- "to beget, bear" (see genus). The older sense is preserved in wheat germ and germ of an idea; sense of "seed of a disease" first recorded 1803; that of "harmful microorganism" dates from 1871. Germ warfare recorded from 1920.
- A small mass of protoplasm or cells from which a new organism or one of its parts may develop.
- A microorganism, especially a pathogen.
- A microscopic organism or agent, especially one that is pathogenic, such as a bacterium or virus.
Usage: The terms germ and microbe have been used to refer to invisible agents of disease since the nineteenth century, when scientists introduced the germ theory of disease, the idea that infections and contagious diseases are caused by microorganisms. Microbe, a shortening and alteration of microorganism, comes from the Greek prefix mikro-, small, and the word bios, life. Scientists no longer use the terms germ and microbe very much. Today they can usually identify the specific agents of disease, such as individual species of bacteria or viruses. To refer generally to agents of disease, they use the term pathogen, from the Greek pathos, suffering, and the suffix -gen, producer. They use microorganism to refer to any unicellular organism, whether disease-causing or not.