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germ

[jurm]
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noun
  1. a microorganism, especially when disease-producing; microbe.
  2. a bud, offshoot, or seed.
  3. the rudiment of a living organism; an embryo in its early stages.
  4. the initial stage in development or evolution, as a germ cell or ancestral form.
  5. something that serves as a source or initial stage for subsequent development: the germ of an idea.
adjective
  1. Pathology. of, relating to, or caused by disease-producing germs.

Origin of germ

1400–50; late Middle English < Middle French germe < Latin germen shoot, sprout, by dissimilation from *genmen, equivalent to gen- (see genitor, genus) + -men resultative noun suffix)
Related formsgerm·less, adjectivegerm·like, adjective

Synonyms

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4. spark, root, bud, rudiment, seed.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for germs

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • These germs, brought from Venus, were the only cure for the terrible disease.

  • There were also the germs of two more, one at Providence and the other on Rhode Island.

    King Philip

    John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott

  • No doubt there were germs in the early Iranian religion of a priestly system.

    History of Religion

    Allan Menzies

  • This is a surgical dressing which has been so treated that it is free from germs.

    Boy Scouts Handbook

    Boy Scouts of America

  • At every act of swallowing, germs are carried into the stomach.

    Rural Hygiene

    Henry N. Ogden


British Dictionary definitions for germs

germ

noun
  1. a microorganism, esp one that produces disease in animals or plants
  2. (often plural) the rudimentary or initial form of somethingthe germs of revolution
  3. a simple structure, such as a fertilized egg, that is capable of developing into a complete organism

Word Origin

C17: from French germe, from Latin germen sprig, bud, sprout, seed
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for germs

germ

n.

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

germs in Medicine

germ

(jûrm)
n.
  1. A small mass of protoplasm or cells from which a new organism or one of its parts may develop.
  2. A microorganism, especially a pathogen.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

germs in Science

germ

[jûrm]
  1. 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.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

germs in Culture

germs

Microorganisms that can cause disease or infection.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.