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[ton-suh l] /ˈtɒn səl/
noun, Anatomy.
a prominent oval mass of lymphoid tissue on each side of the throat.
Origin of tonsil
First recorded in 1595-1605, tonsil is from the Latin word tōnsillae (plural) the tonsils
Related forms
tonsillar, tonsilar, tonsillary
[ton-suh-ler-ee] /ˈtɒn səˌlɛr i/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for tonsils
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Look for all the world just as I done when I had the tonsils two winters ago.

    The Rise of Roscoe Paine Joseph C. Lincoln
  • The uvula, the pillars of the palate, and the tonsils are parts of the structure.

    The Child-Voice in Singing Francis E. Howard
  • When your lungs were bursting through your chest and your heart was crowding your tonsils.

    Gigolo Edna Ferber
  • He didn't so much as glance at her tonsils; he simply picked her up in his arms and hugged her.

    Dear Enemy Jean Webster
  • Frequently, about the third day, there are patches on the tonsils.

  • Often the lining membranes of the mouth, throat and tonsils slough and bleed.

    Philosophy of Osteopathy Andrew T. Still
  • Has ever since she was a little girl when they took out her tonsils.

    The Carter Girls Nell Speed
British Dictionary definitions for tonsils


Also called palatine tonsil. either of two small masses of lymphatic tissue situated one on each side of the back of the mouth related adjective amygdaline
(anatomy) any small rounded mass of tissue, esp lymphatic tissue
Derived Forms
tonsillar, tonsillary, adjective
Word Origin
C17: from Latin tōnsillae (pl) tonsils, of uncertain origin
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
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Word Origin and History for tonsils



c.1600, from Latin tonsillae (plural) "tonsils," diminutive of toles "goiter," which is perhaps of Gaulish origin.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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tonsils in Medicine

tonsil ton·sil (tŏn'səl)

  1. A collection of lymphoid tissue.

  2. A small oral mass of lymphoid tissue, especially either of two such masses embedded in the lateral walls of the opening between the mouth and the pharynx, of uncertain function, but believed to help protect the body from respiratory infections. Also called faucial tonsil, palatine tonsil.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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tonsils in Science
The two oval-shaped masses of tissue at the back of the throat that lie between the mouth and the pharynx. The tonsils are thought to prevent infections of the breathing passages but often become infected themselves.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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tonsils in Culture

tonsils definition

Two masses of tissue on either side of the throat. The tonsils, part of the lymphatic system, help defend the body against harmful microorganisms.

Note: Formerly, tonsils were often removed surgically in childhood, but now they are not, unless the tonsils have grown too large or are continually subject to infection.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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