germ theory


Definition of germ theory

: a theory in medicine: infections, contagious diseases, and various other conditions result from the action of microorganisms

Examples of germ theory in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web By the time the wife of painter Abbott Thayer succumbed to the disease in 1891, germ theory was widely accepted and would have been familiar to the artist, who was the son of a physician and public health expert. Elizabeth Lee, The Conversation, "One 19th-century artist’s effort to grapple with tuberculosis resonates during COVID-19," 31 July 2020 This period coincided with spreading awareness of germ theory, Chapin explains. Erika Fry, Fortune, "Is it time for your business to hire a chief public health officer?," 8 July 2020 It was probably designed before germ theory was established. oregonlive, "Oregon’s maximum-security prison in Salem now the site of state’s biggest single coronavirus outbreak," 22 May 2020 Even as scientific thinking has evolved, a facile sense of germ theory prevails, with particulate life understood in stubbornly moral terms. Amy Herzog, New York Times, "How a Game With My Daughter Helped Us Cope With Quarantine and the Past," 20 May 2020 Even the richest Romans could not escape the terrors of a world without germ theory, refrigeration, or clean water. Edward Watts, Smithsonian Magazine, "What Rome Learned From the Deadly Antonine Plague of 165 A.D.," 28 Apr. 2020 Until the advent of germ theory led to countermeasures such as penicillin and vaccines, an appeal to a higher power represented one of humanity’s only protections from these invisible existential threats. Matt Alt, The New Yorker, "From Japan, a Mascot for the Pandemic," 9 Apr. 2020 The rise of germ theory in the 19th century further cemented the ethos that broad police powers were justified in the face of infectious disease. Dominique Soguel, The Christian Science Monitor, "Pandemic dilemma: Emergency surveillance won’t be easy to unplug," 30 Mar. 2020 Ignorance of germ theory is one structural weakness. Laurie Penny, Wired, "Panic, Pandemic, and the Body Politic," 14 Mar. 2020

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

1870, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of germ theory was in 1870

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Last Updated

10 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Germ theory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for germ theory

germ theory


Medical Definition of germ theory

: a theory in medicine: infections, contagious diseases, and various other conditions (as suppurative lesions) result from the action of microorganisms

More from Merriam-Webster on germ theory Encyclopedia article about germ theory

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