\ 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

Rice: Skip white rice, which is the rice grain without its hull, bran or germ. Jenna Birch, Washington Post, "A primer on whole grains: What they are, why they’re important and how to find them," 19 Aug. 2019 These get rid of most of the hull and germ, making the cornmeal shelf-stable for a longer period of time. Emma Wartzman, Bon Appétit, "The Need-to-Know Rule For Buying and Using Cornmeal," 17 July 2019 The idea was to protect Earth from possible lunar germs, even though NASA scientists seriously doubted there could be life on the moon. NBC News, "Apollo 11: Eleven things you never knew about NASA's landmark moon mission," 14 July 2019 Tim Perge, general manager of the Holiday Inn Mentor, said that guests worry about germs in hotels, even though the facility takes cleanliness seriously. Julie Washington,, "Mentor’s Altitude Medical brings hand sanitizer dispensers to public bathroom door handles," 26 June 2019 The seeds are musical germs, Mivos tossing them around in a pageant of imaginative sonic circumstances. Mark Swed,, "Review: Why ‘Noon to Midnight’ is the new-music bargain that’s hard to beat," 3 June 2019 Tan also advises bringing anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down airplane seats to prevent the spread of germs and infection. Lauren Decarlo, Condé Nast Traveler, "Traveling with Psoriasis," 6 June 2019 Plus, cash is dirty, a vector for germs and disease. David Gelles, New York Times, "Going Cashless: My Journey Into the Future," 30 Mar. 2018 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

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

6 Sep 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

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


readily or continually undergoing change

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