\ ˈjərm How to pronounce germ (audio) \

Definition of germ

1a : a small mass of living substance capable of developing into an organism or one of its parts
b : the embryo with the scutellum of a cereal grain that is usually separated from the starchy endosperm during milling
2 : something that initiates development or serves as an origin : rudiments, beginning
3 : microorganism especially : a microorganism causing disease

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Examples of germ in a Sentence

the germ that causes tuberculosis the germ of an idea the germ layers of an embryo
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Recent Examples on the Web If one branch stands down, the body hasn’t necessarily lost its germ-fighting capacity. Gregory Barber, Wired, "Covid-19 Immunity May Rely on a Microscopic Helper: T Cells," 10 July 2020 Luckily, one silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic playing out longer than a lot of us anticipated is that people have started discovering more comfortable ways to cover their faces and are sharing them with the rest of us germ-wary citizens. Claudia Fisher, Travel + Leisure, "Amazon Shoppers Call This Multipurpose Cooling Towel ‘the Most Comfortable Coronavirus Mask’," 9 July 2020 When finished, just rinse the moisture- and germ-resistant medical-grade silicone funnel off and go about your merry, empty-bladdered way. Jayla Andrulonis,, "This $13 Gadget Makes It Possible to Pee Anywhere," 9 July 2020 The spiritual germ of capitalism flowered in the minds of merchants and men of business, and in the paragons of success and frugal living. George Blaustein, The New Republic, "Searching for Consolation in Max Weber’s Work Ethic," 2 July 2020 Vaccines work by presenting the immune system with a form of a germ -- or a key part of it -- preparing the body to respond when a real exposure occurs. James Paton, Fortune, "The earliest coronavirus vaccines may not protect you from getting infected," 15 June 2020 When a person infected with COVID-19 defecates, the germ at first settles into the toilet bowl. Sarah Gibbens, National Geographic, "In public toilets, flushing isn't the only COVID-19 risk," 19 June 2020 This vegan-friendly hemp hand sanitizer is made of 70 percent pure alcohol to keep your hands clean, safe and germ free. Yadi Rodriguez, cleveland, "16 essential supplies for your next road trip," 19 June 2020 Reports about tunnels where anyone passing through gets sprayed with germ-killing antiseptics appeared in Russian media on Tuesday night., "Honduras president, first lady test positive for COVID-19," 18 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'germ.' 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 germ

1644, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for germ

French germe, from Latin germin-, germen, from gignere to beget — more at kin

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Statistics for germ

Last Updated

13 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Germ.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for germ


How to pronounce germ (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of germ

biology : a very small living thing that causes disease
: the origin or basis of something
: a very small amount of something


\ ˈjərm How to pronounce germ (audio) \

Kids Definition of germ

1 : a source from which something develops the germ of an idea
2 : a microorganism (as a bacterium) that causes disease
3 : a bit of living matter (as a cell) capable of forming a new individual or one of its parts


\ ˈjərm How to pronounce germ (audio) \

Medical Definition of germ

1 : a small mass of living substance capable of developing into an organism or one of its parts
2 : microorganism especially : a microorganism causing disease

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More from Merriam-Webster on germ

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for germ

Spanish Central: Translation of germ

Nglish: Translation of germ for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of germ for Arabic Speakers

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