[ jurm ]
See synonyms for: germgerms on

  1. a microorganism, especially when disease-producing; microbe.

  2. a bud, offshoot, or seed.

  1. the rudiment of a living organism; an embryo in its early stages.

  2. the initial stage in development or evolution, as a germ cell or ancestral form.

  3. something that serves as a source or initial stage for subsequent development: the germ of an idea.

  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)

Other words for germ

Other words from germ

  • germless, adjective
  • germlike, adjective

Words Nearby germ Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use germ in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for germ


/ (dʒɜːm) /

  1. a microorganism, esp one that produces disease in animals or plants

  2. (often plural) the rudimentary or initial form of something: the germs of revolution

  1. a simple structure, such as a fertilized egg, that is capable of developing into a complete organism

Origin of germ

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

Scientific definitions for germ


[ jûrm ]

  1. A microscopic organism or agent, especially one that is pathogenic, such as a bacterium or virus.

usage For germ

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.