\ 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

Goose droppings can contain germs such as e.coli and salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Jessica Seaman, The Denver Post, "Protesters flock to Washington Park to protest Denver culling Canada geese," 6 July 2019 Thompson notes that the less people who touch it, the better, to limit foreign germs. Lexy Lebsack,, "Everything You Want To Know About Nipple Piercings (& We Mean Everything)," 5 July 2019 There’s good reason to think that’s possible; our wee residents seem to dabble quite a bit in our well-being, influencing metabolic disorders, inflammation, hormone cycling, and our defenses against invading germs. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "New York Times falls for “obesity probiotic” hype," 5 July 2019 Though a common germ, staph can sometimes cause skin or wound infections, pneumonia, blood infections and in more extreme cases, sepsis or even death, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Susan Scutti, CNN, "A dozen cases of MRSA confirmed in Pittsburgh hospital NICU," 2 July 2019 Children 5 and younger, people with weakened immune systems and those 65 and older are most vulnerable to the germs animals carry, and should take extra precautions at animal exhibits, the CDC advises. Sonja Haller, USA TODAY, "New data shows petting zoos crawl with superbugs, potentially putting more kids at risk," 2 July 2019 Change diapers in a bathroom or diaper-changing area—not poolside—to keep germs away from the pool. Leada Gore |,, "Crypto: Parasite in pools making people sick, CDC wants," 1 July 2019 But a greater fear, realized here through frantic motion and constant, sometimes glorious sound, is that some parts of the self might leave the loop and, finally, enter the world like a bad germ. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, "The Ecstatic Doubling of “A Strange Loop”," 24 June 2019 And humans could trigger their own demise: Someone could engineer a particularly bad germ. Anchorage Daily News, "What the Space Age taught us: Earth is the best of all possible worlds," 23 June 2019

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

12 Jul 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 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

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

Comments on germ

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


food or victuals

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