\ ˈflem How to pronounce phlegm (audio) \

Definition of phlegm

1 : the one of the four humors in early physiology that was considered to be cold and moist and to cause sluggishness
2 : viscid mucus secreted in abnormal quantity in the respiratory passages
3a : dull or apathetic coldness or indifference
b : intrepid coolness or calm fortitude

Other Words from phlegm

phlegmy \ ˈfle-​mē How to pronounce phlegm (audio) \ adjective

Examples of phlegm in a Sentence

He displayed remarkable phlegm in very dangerous conditions. a man of remarkable phlegm, never showing enthusiasm nor displeasure
Recent Examples on the Web Keegan half expected a sensory flashback to the choking heat and the taste of dusty phlegm and gunpowder residue. August Cole, Wired, 5 June 2020 Technicians can ask a patient to cough up phlegm, known as sputum, but doing so substantially raises the risk of infecting health care workers. Lydia Depillis, ProPublica, 10 Apr. 2020 Haley said even her cat was coughing up phlegm and acting lethargic. Cameron Knight,, 6 May 2020 For sputum samples, a patient coughs to produce phlegm or mucus, which is collected and analyzed, but if those samples don’t have enough material, the lab cannot run the tests. Dennis Pillion |, al, 21 Mar. 2020 Roberta Bivins points out in her history of alternative medicine that for most of Western history, medical wisdom held that physical health relied on the balance of the four humors (blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm). Jordan Kisner, The Atlantic, 7 Mar. 2020 Nearby, one man cleared his throat and spat an oyster of phlegm onto the sidewalk. New York Times, 24 Mar. 2020 Health officials can use a variety of tests to determine whether someone has contracted the virus, including a nose swab and testing a person’s phlegm. Nic Garcia, Dallas News, 4 Feb. 2020 Franny occasionally chokes on his phlegm and needs suctioning, and relies on a personal care attendant with experience providing respiratory care. Globe Staff,, 11 Jan. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'phlegm.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of phlegm

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for phlegm

Middle English fleume, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin phlegmat-, phlegma, from Greek, flame, inflammation, phlegm, from phlegein to burn — more at black entry 1

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The first known use of phlegm was in the 13th century

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Cite this Entry

“Phlegm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for phlegm


\ ˈflem How to pronounce phlegm (audio) \

Medical Definition of phlegm

1 : the one of the four humors of ancient and medieval physiology that was believed to be cold and moist and to cause sluggishness
2 : viscid mucus secreted in abnormal quantity in the respiratory passages

More from Merriam-Webster on phlegm

Nglish: Translation of phlegm for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of phlegm for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about phlegm


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