\ 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

Each uncovered sneeze can spread viruses, bacteria, or other pathogens more than 20 feet away, according to MIT research, but those same germs can pass from your fingers and palms to doorknobs, desks, and handrails. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "It’s 2019: How Are People Still Not Sneezing the Right Way?!?," 8 Feb. 2019 The report also found that nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks have been discovered or introduced since 2004. Elyssa Cherney,, "Illinois among top states with for mosquito-bite diseases: CDC," 2 May 2018 Tickborne illnesses more than doubled over the 13 years during which researchers found seven new germs being spread by ticks. Sean Rossman, USA TODAY, "Tick, mosquito, flea illnesses have tripled and the U.S. isn't fully prepared, CDC says," 2 May 2018 When this natural bacterial composition is disrupted by antibiotics, those healthy germs are wiped out, allowing C. difficile to overgrow and cause an infection. Gul Madison,, "Medical Mystery: What caused healthy woman's severe diarrhea, abdominal pain?," 12 Jan. 2018 Their promotional video reveals that a reusable straw that goes 24 hours without being cleaned can harbor as many germs as a public toilet seat—yikes. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "This Reusable Straw Has a Genius Cleaning Hack That’ll Blow Your Mind," 4 Apr. 2019 Airport security trays carry more germs than toilets, a study reveals. Fox News, "Kavanaugh grilled on cases during confirmation hearing," 6 Sep. 2018 But lymphatic system fluid — which contains white blood cells and plays an important role in protecting the body from germs and disease — flows more slowly and can be helped along manually. Elizabeth Kiefer, The Seattle Times, "Jade rollers: Puffy-eye wonder cure or sham?," 26 Mar. 2019 Makeup brushes, too, are often overlooked, and can store unwanted germs and viruses. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "Here’s How to Transition Your Skin-Care Routine From Winter to Spring," 12 Mar. 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

17 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

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