caduceus

noun
ca·​du·​ceus | \ kə-ˈdü-sē-əs How to pronounce caduceus (audio) , -ˈdyü-, -shəs\
plural caducei\ kə-​ˈdü-​sē-​ˌī How to pronounce caducei (audio) , -​ˈdyü-​ , -​shē-​ \

Definition of caduceus

1 : the symbolic staff of a herald specifically : a representation of a staff with two entwined snakes and two wings at the top
2 : a medical insignia bearing a representation of a staff with two entwined snakes and two wings at the top:
a : one sometimes used to symbolize a physician but often considered to be an erroneous representation — compare staff of asclepius
b : the emblem of a medical corps or a department of the armed services (as of the United States Army)

Illustration of caduceus

Illustration of caduceus

caduceus 1

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Did You Know?

The Greek god Hermes, who served as herald and messenger to the other gods, carried a winged staff entwined with two snakes. The staff of Aesculapius, the god of healing, had one snake and no wings. The word ''caduceus," from Latin, is a modification of Greek karykeion, from karyx, meaning "herald." Strictly speaking, "caduceus" should refer only to the staff of the herald-god Hermes (Mercury to the Romans), but in practice the word is often applied to the one-snake staff as well. You might logically expect the staff of Aesculapius to be the symbol of the medical profession-and indeed, that is the symbol used by the American Medical Association. But you will also quite frequently see the true caduceus used as a medical symbol.

Examples of caduceus in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The card shows a man and a woman each holding a cup; their cups touch, and from the union springs a winged-lion head atop a caduceus. Peter Bebergal, The New Yorker, "Making the Tarot Literary Again," 29 Feb. 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'caduceus.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of caduceus

1577, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for caduceus

Latin, modification of Greek karykeion, from karyx, kēryx herald; akin to Sanskrit kāru singer

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Last Updated

23 Apr 2019

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The first known use of caduceus was in 1577

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More Definitions for caduceus

caduceus

noun
ca·​du·​ceus | \ kə-ˈd(y)ü-sē-əs, -shəs How to pronounce caduceus (audio) \
plural caducei\ -​sē-​ˌī How to pronounce caducei (audio) \

Medical Definition of caduceus

: a medical insignia bearing a representation of a staff with two entwined snakes and two wings at the top:
a : one sometimes used to symbolize a physician but often considered to be an erroneous representation — compare staff of asclepius
b : the emblem of a medical corps or a department of the armed services (as of the United States Army)

More from Merriam-Webster on caduceus

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about caduceus

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