• synonyms


[ton-suh l]
noun Anatomy.
  1. a prominent oval mass of lymphoid tissue on each side of the throat.
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Origin of tonsil

First recorded in 1595–1605, tonsil is from the Latin word tōnsillae (plural) the tonsils
Related formston·sil·lar, ton·sil·ar, ton·sil·lar·y [ton-suh-ler-ee] /ˈtɒn səˌlɛr i/, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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.

  • When your lungs were bursting through your chest and your heart was crowding your tonsils.


    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.

British Dictionary definitions for tonsils


  1. Also called: palatine tonsil either of two small masses of lymphatic tissue situated one on each side of the back of the mouthRelated adjective: amygdaline
  2. anatomy any small rounded mass of tissue, esp lymphatic tissue
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Derived Formstonsillar or 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

Word Origin and History for tonsils



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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

tonsils in Medicine


  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.faucial tonsil palatine tonsil
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

tonsils in Science


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

tonsils in Culture


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

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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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.