\ ˈjərm \

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

The bills Smith enacted became models for Roosevelt’s response to the Depression, including pensions for widows with children, the germ of the Social Security legislation signed by FDR in 1935. Edward Kosner, WSJ, "‘Frank and Al’ Review: A Friendship Forged in Albany," 25 Sep. 2018 And this chain of events is more likely in those who had little exposure to germs and bacteria in early childhood. The Economist, "Germ-free children may be more prone to leukaemia," 24 May 2018 The lesson was that bacteria and germs are bad; cleanliness is good. Katheryn Erickson, Glamour, "Why You're Probably Overwashing Your Face," 2 May 2018 Brown rice is to white rice what whole-wheat flour is to white flour, in that brown rice has not had the outer (brown) bran and germ removed. Becky Krystal, sacbee, "A better pot of rice is within your reach | The Sacramento Bee," 17 Apr. 2018 Researchers tried to find out the risk of catching respiratory germs and where on the plane the risk is greatest. Josh Hafner, USA TODAY, "When hand washing isn't enough: A germ expert reveals the grossest places on planes," 5 Apr. 2018 Blood, germs and feels Trump, who has a reputation as a germaphobe, has spoken about his fear of contamination for years. Eli Rosenberg, Washington Post, "Trump said he would charge a gunman. Here’s what he’s actually done in the face of danger.," 26 Feb. 2018 Schools are breeding grounds for germs and infections, which means back-to-school time often comes with a whole slew of colds and illnesses. Lindsay Carlton, Fox News, "Back-to-school germs 101: What you need to know," 7 Sep. 2018 So many other items hanging oh-so-innocuously around the house turn out to be little more than petri dishes for germs. Ana Veciana-suarez, miamiherald, "A simple Google search turned me into a germophobe," 2 July 2018

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

11 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for germ

The first known use of germ was in 1644

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More Definitions for germ



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 \

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 \

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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