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 caduceus (audio)
-ˈdyü-,
-shē-
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

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 researchers think that the complete statue once depicted the god in a standing position, either draped in a short cloak or nude and holding a staff known as a caduceus with two snakes spiraling around it. Julia Binswanger, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 Feb. 2024 The caduceus, the staff of the Greek god Hermes, bears a pair of wings at the top, a representation of his speed. Phil Thompson, Chicago Tribune, 5 Feb. 2023 What saves the day in Dracula is not the medical caduceus but the cross. Jeremy Dauber, The Atlantic, 31 Oct. 2022 The caduceus is the magic wand carried by Hermes, who the Romans knew as Mercury, the messenger of the gods. Kyle Roderick, Forbes, 15 June 2022 The caduceus of the RAF Medics is a brilliant shape—and an international symbol for medicine everywhere. Eric Twardzik, Robb Report, 28 Dec. 2021 Union officials said that removing the caduceus — the traditional symbol of medicine featuring two serpents wrapped around a staff — from the uniforms lapel and making name patches optional will only further erode public trust. Libor Jany, Star Tribune, 7 July 2021 Or, try Cameron's other outfit featuring a caduceus T-shirt and suspenders. Tierney McAfee, Country Living, 14 July 2020

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

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

1577, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of caduceus was in 1577

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Dictionary Entries Near caduceus

Cite this Entry

“Caduceus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caduceus. Accessed 29 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

caduceus

noun
ca·​du·​ceus kə-ˈd(y)ü-sē-əs How to pronounce caduceus (audio)
-shəs
plural caducei -sē-ˌī How to pronounce caduceus (audio)
1
: a figure of a staff with two snakes wound around it and two wings at the top
2
: an emblem bearing a caduceus and symbolizing a physician

Medical Definition

caduceus

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

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