See more synonyms for syphilis on
noun Pathology.
  1. a chronic infectious disease, caused by a spirochete, Treponema pallidum, usually venereal in origin but often congenital, and affecting almost any organ or tissue in the body, especially the genitals, skin, mucous membranes, aorta, brain, liver, bones, and nerves.

Origin of syphilis

< New Latin, coined by Giovanni Fracastoro (1478–1553), Italian physician and poet, in his 1530 Latin poem Syphilis, sive morbus Gallicus (“Syphilis, or the French Disease”), an early account of syphilis Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for syphilis

AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, pox, clap, HIV, STD, VD, chancroid, chlamydia, crabs, scabies

Examples from the Web for syphilis

Historical Examples of syphilis

British Dictionary definitions for syphilis


  1. a venereal disease caused by infection with the microorganism Treponema pallidum: characterized by an ulcerating chancre, usually on the genitals and progressing through the lymphatic system to nearly all tissues of the body, producing serious clinical manifestations
Derived Formssyphilitic (ˌsɪfɪˈlɪtɪk), adjectivesyphilitically, adverbsyphiloid, adjective

Word Origin for syphilis

C18: from New Latin Syphilis (sive Morbus Gallicus) ``Syphilis (or the French disease)'', title of a poem (1530) by G. Fracastoro, Italian physician and poet, in which a shepherd Syphilus is portrayed as the first victim of the disease
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 syphilis

1718, Modern Latin, originally from the title of a poem, "Syphilis, sive Morbus Gallicus" "Syphilis, or the French Disease," 1530, by Veronese doctor Girolamo Fracastoro (1483-1553), which tells the tale of the shepherd Syphilus, supposed to be the first sufferer from the disease. Fracastoro first used the word as a generic term for the disease in 1546 treatise "De Contagione." Why he chose the name is unknown; it may be intended as Latin for "Pig-lover," though there was also a Sipylus, a son of Niobe, in Ovid.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

syphilis in Medicine


  1. A chronic infectious disease caused by Treponema pallidum, either transmitted by direct contact, usually in sexual intercourse, or passed from mother to child in utero, and progressing through three stages characterized respectively by local formation of chancres, ulcerous skin eruptions, and systemic infection that leads to general paresis.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

syphilis in Science


  1. A sexually transmitted disease caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum that is characterized in its primary stage by genital sores. If untreated, skin ulcers develop in the next stage, called secondary syphilis. As the disease progresses to potentially fatal tertiary syphilis, neurologic involvement with weakness and skeletal or cardiovascular damage can occur.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

syphilis in Culture



A sexually transmitted disease caused by a microorganism. In its initial stages (called primary syphilis), it is manifested by a skin ulcer called a chancre. If the disease is not treated by penicillin or other antibiotics, the infection becomes chronic. In so-called tertiary syphilis, virtually any tissue in the body can be damaged, including the cardiovascular and nervous systems. The disease, if left untreated, can cause blindness, mental illness, and death.

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.