diph·​the·​ria | \dif-ˈthir-ē-ə, nonstandard dip- \

Definition of diphtheria 

: an acute febrile contagious disease typically marked by the formation of a false membrane especially in the throat and caused by a gram-positive bacterium (Corynebacterium diphtheriae) that produces a toxin causing inflammation of the heart and nervous system

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Other Words from diphtheria

diphtherial \ -​ē-​əl \ adjective
diphtheritic \ ˌdif-​thə-​ˈri-​tik , nonstandard  ˌdip-​ \ adjective

Examples of diphtheria in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Doctors say cases of diseases once thought largely eradicated — malaria, diphtheria, measles and tuberculosis — are not only resurfacing but surging. Anthony Faiola And Rachelle Krygier, Washington Post, "Blackouts, hyperinflation, hunger: Maduro faces reelection as Venezuela deteriorates," 16 May 2018 Schools and day care centers usually require proof of such vaccines as TDaP (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and others. Anna Groves, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Want to prevent your children from getting cancer? Doctors push HPV vaccine," 9 July 2018 Since being thrust into chaos, Venezuela has seen either a reemergence or a resurgence of other infectious diseases including diphtheria, tuberculosis, measles and malaria. Stefano Pozzebon And Susan Scutti, CNN, "Polio re-emerges in Venezuela nearly 30 years after eradication," 11 June 2018 In the 1920s, Aurora families struggled through a diphtheria epidemic and the 1930s brought the Great Depression across the country. Cathy Janek, Aurora Beacon-News, "Founded in Aurora, VNA Health Care celebrating its 100th anniversary," 11 June 2018 Oregon requires students receive vaccines that fight off diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis. Molly Harbarger, OregonLive.com, "Oregon rates of non-immunized children continues to rise," 29 May 2018 Other diseases — such as measles, rubella, diphtheria — became very, very rare. New York Times, BostonGlobe.com, "More spending on public health could cut overall costs of medical care," 28 May 2018 More than 80 percent are up to date on Haemophilus influenzae; diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; and pneumococcal vaccines. NBC News, "Public support for vaccines drops a bit," 21 May 2018 In 2000, just 1 percent of the population of those countries received the pentavalent vaccine (covering diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and hib); by 2016, that number was 76 percent. Felix Salmon, WIRED, "Musk, Zuckerberg, Bezos, and Ethically Iffy ‘Philanthropy," 15 May 2018

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

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First Known Use of diphtheria

circa 1851, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for diphtheria

New Latin, from French diphthérie, from Greek diphthera leather; from the toughness of the false membrane

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Statistics for diphtheria

Last Updated

13 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for diphtheria

The first known use of diphtheria was circa 1851

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English Language Learners Definition of diphtheria

medical : a serious disease that makes breathing very difficult


diph·​the·​ria | \dif-ˈthir-ē-ə, dip-\

Kids Definition of diphtheria

: a contagious disease that often makes breathing and swallowing difficult


diph·​the·​ria | \dif-ˈthir-ē-ə, dip- \

Medical Definition of diphtheria 

: an acute febrile contagious disease typically marked by the formation of a false membrane especially in the throat and caused by a bacterium of the genus Corynebacterium (C. diphtheriae) which produces a toxin causing inflammation of the heart and nervous system

Other Words from diphtheria

diphtherial \ -​ē-​əl \ adjective

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