cancer

noun
can·​cer | \ ˈkan(t)-sər \

Definition of cancer

1 capitalized

a : a northern zodiacal constellation between Gemini and Leo
b(1) : the fourth sign of the zodiac in astrology — see Signs of the Zodiac Table
(2) : one born under the sign of Cancer I'm a Taurus, but my best friend is a Cancer.

2 [ Latin, crab, cancer ]

a : a malignant tumor of potentially unlimited growth that expands locally by invasion and systemically by metastasis
b : an abnormal bodily state marked by such tumors
3 : something evil or malignant that spreads destructively the cancer of hidden resentmentIrish Digest
4a : an enlarged tumorlike plant growth (such as that of crown gall)
b : a plant disease marked by such growths

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from cancer

cancerous \ ˈkan(t)s-​rəs , ˈkan(t)-​sə-​ \ adjective
cancerously adverb

Did You Know?

The Latin word cancer, meaning “crab,” was also given as a name to several diseases. One of the diseases was the abnormal, spreading mass of tissue we call a tumor. A possible explanation for this extended use of cancer is that the Romans thought some tumors looked like many-legged crabs. A French descendant of this Latin word was borrowed into English as canker. It is now applied to several plant and animal disorders. In the 14th century the Latin word cancer in the sense of “tumor” was borrowed directly into English, giving us our modern spelling and sense.

Examples of cancer in a Sentence

He was diagnosed with cancer. She learned that she has cancer. Eating certain foods may help reduce the risk of cancer. Advanced cancers are more difficult to treat. I'm a Taurus, but my best friend is a Cancer.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

His personal physician, Francesco Antommarchi, performed the autopsy, which revealed unmistakable signs of stomach cancer. Maude Campbell, Popular Mechanics, "The Complete History of the Autopsy," 26 Dec. 2018 Investigators looked for heavy metals and markers for carcinogens that could raise the risk of cancer. Rachel Becker, The Verge, "Is vaping better than smoking? Scientists studied pee to find out," 14 Dec. 2018 The results showed that morning larks had a lower incidence of breast cancer. Cathleen O'grady, Ars Technica, "Being a morning person might have some health advantages," 12 Nov. 2018 Beverly McClellan, a finalist from Season 1 of The Voice, has died of cancer. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "'The Voice' Star Beverly McClellan Has Died of Cancer at 49," 1 Nov. 2018 The appearance comes six weeks after the late senator passed away following a battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer on August 25. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "Meghan McCain Returned to The View With a Tearful Thank You to Fans," 8 Oct. 2018 The Divinyls lead singer Chrissy Amphlett died of breast cancer in 2013, notes Elle. Elizabeth Logan, Allure, "Serena Williams Goes Topless to Sing "I Touch Myself" for Breast Cancer Awareness," 1 Oct. 2018 Photo: iStock/Getty Images A few years ago, Carlos told me his wife was suffering from breast cancer. Bob Brody, WSJ, "Requiem for a Doorman," 16 Dec. 2018 In what may be the best Christmas gift ever, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has reportedly been discharged from the hospital following surgery to remove lung cancer. Jennifer Lance, Glamour, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Been Released from the Hospital Following Lung Cancer Surgery," 26 Dec. 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of cancer

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for cancer

Middle English, from Latin (genitive Cancri), literally, crab; akin to Greek karkinos crab, cancer

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cancer

Statistics for cancer

Last Updated

16 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cancer

The first known use of cancer was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cancer

cancer

noun

English Language Learners Definition of cancer

: a serious disease caused by cells that are not normal and that can spread to one or many parts of the body

: something bad or dangerous that causes other bad things to happen

Cancer : the fourth sign of the zodiac that comes between Gemini and Leo and has a crab as its symbol

cancer

noun
can·​cer | \ ˈkan-sər \

Kids Definition of cancer

: a serious sometimes deadly disease characterized by the growth of abnormal cells that form tumors which may damage or destroy normal body tissue

cancer

noun
can·​cer | \ ˈkan(t)-sər \

Medical Definition of cancer

1 : a malignant tumor of potentially unlimited growth that expands locally by invasion and systemically by metastasis
2 : an abnormal state marked by a cancer

Other Words from cancer

cancerous \ ˈkan(t)s-​(ə-​)rəs \ adjective

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on cancer

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cancer

Spanish Central: Translation of cancer

Nglish: Translation of cancer for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cancer for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about cancer

Comments on cancer

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to settle judicially or to act as judge

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

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!