au·​to·​im·​mune ˌȯ-tō-im-ˈyün How to pronounce autoimmune (audio)
: of, relating to, or caused by autoantibodies or T cells that attack molecules, cells, or tissues of the organism producing them
autoimmune diseases
autoimmunity noun
autoimmunization noun

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Any healthy body produces a variety of antibodies, proteins in the blood whose job is to protect the body from unwanted bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. The cells and organs that deal with such infections make up the immune system. In some people and animals, for various reasons, the antibodies become overactive and turn on the body's healthy tissues as well; the result is an autoimmune disease—an immune response directed against one's own self. More than eighty autoimmune diseases have been identified, the best-known being type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Examples of autoimmune in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that interferes with how sugar is available to fuel our bodies. Amanda Gardner, Health, 20 Nov. 2023 For almost 15 years the Sopranos alum had been quietly dealing with the debilitating symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative autoimmune disease that damages the central nervous system. Julie Jordan, Peoplemag, 15 Nov. 2023 Still, early experimental trials have yielded promising results for the treatment of inflammatory autoimmune diseases. William A. Haseltine, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 Patients have also reported a variety of systemic symptoms such as joint pain, muscle aches, confusion, chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases, and others. Essence, 11 Nov. 2023 In addition to long COVID and ME/CFS, chronic Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis and autoimmune diseases such as lupus affect women more often. Emily Mendenhall, Scientific American, 10 Nov. 2023 The autoimmune condition typically causes symptoms like insatiable thirst, bed-wetting, frequent bathroom trips, weight loss, and emotional challenges, among others. Tiffany Ayuda, SELF, 10 Nov. 2023 Data from multiple state civil-rights agencies show that in recent years, disability charges—encompassing a range of conditions including mental-health disorders, hearing impairments and autoimmune diseases—have overtaken previous top complaints, such as retaliation and race discrimination. Lauren Weber, WSJ, 2 Nov. 2023 Healthcare providers also use chemotherapy for other diseases, including blood disorders and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Ashley Abramson, Health, 31 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'autoimmune.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


auto- + immune, after autoimmunity, borrowed from French auto-immunité

First Known Use

1952, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of autoimmune was in 1952

Dictionary Entries Near autoimmune

Cite this Entry

“Autoimmune.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


au·​to·​im·​mune ˌȯt-ō-im-ˈyün How to pronounce autoimmune (audio)
: relating to or caused by an abnormal condition in which an organism's immune system attacks and destroys parts of its own cells or tissues
multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease

Medical Definition


au·​to·​im·​mune -im-ˈyün How to pronounce autoimmune (audio)
: of, relating to, or caused by antibodies or T cells that attack molecules, cells, or tissues of the organism producing them
autoimmune diseases

More from Merriam-Webster on autoimmune

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