cancer

noun

can·​cer ˈkan(t)-sər How to pronounce cancer (audio)
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
4
a
: an enlarged tumorlike plant growth (such as that of crown gall)
b
: a plant disease marked by such growths
cancerous
ˈkan(t)s-rəs How to pronounce cancer (audio)
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.
Recent Examples on the Web Certain cancers are more preventable than others, the new study suggests. Deidre McPhillips, CNN, 11 July 2024 The cancer advanced rapidly, and Nicholas passed away that August. Lori Riley, Hartford Courant, 11 July 2024 The procedure was the first time a larynx transplant has been performed on a patient with active cancer, the Mayo Clinic announced said in a news release announcing the surgery Tuesday. James Powel, USA TODAY, 11 July 2024 Bone cancer is a rare type of cancer, which can go undetected for some time before being diagnosed. Doru Paul, Verywell Health, 10 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for cancer 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cancer.' 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

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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near cancer

Cite this Entry

“Cancer.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cancer. Accessed 16 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

cancer

noun
can·​cer ˈkan(t)-sər How to pronounce cancer (audio)
1
capitalized : a group of stars between Gemini and Leo usually pictured as a crab
2
capitalized
a
: the fourth sign of the zodiac see zodiac
b
: a person whose sign of the zodiac is Cancer
3
: a tumor that tends to spread locally and to other parts of the body and often causes death if not treated
also : an abnormal state marked by such tumors
4
: a dangerous evil that destroys slowly
cancerous adjective
Etymology

Middle English Cancer "'Crab' star group," from Latin cancer "crab, cancer (disease)"; sense 3 directly from Latin cancer "crab, cancer" — related to canker, chancre

Word Origin
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.

Medical Definition

cancer

noun
can·​cer ˈkan(t)-sər How to pronounce cancer (audio)
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
cancerous adjective
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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