caduceus

play
noun ca·du·ceus \ kə-ˈdü-sē-əs , -ˈdyü- , -shəs \
Updated on: 11 Sep 2017

Definition of caduceus

plural caducei play \kə-ˈdü-sē-ˌī, -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)

caduceus was our Word of the Day on 09/03/2012. Hear the podcast!

Recent Examples of caduceus from the Web

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.

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.

Illustration of caduceus

Origin and Etymology of caduceus

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


Medical Dictionary

caduceus

play
noun ca·du·ceus \ kə-ˈd(y)ü-sē-əs, -shəs \

medical Definition of caduceus

plural caducei play \-sē-ˌī\
: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 aesculapius
b :the emblem of a medical corps or a department of the armed services (as of the United States Army)

Illustration of caduceus


Learn More about caduceus


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up caduceus? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

all at once

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized-drawing-of-woman-pole-vaulting-across-gap-to-get-trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!