\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

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, "AI, AR, and the (Somewhat) Speculative Future of a Tech-Fueled FBI," 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, "Coronavirus Tests Are Being Fast-Tracked by the FDA, but It’s Unclear How Accurate They Are.," 10 Apr. 2020 Haley said even her cat was coughing up phlegm and acting lethargic. Cameron Knight,, "'We will get through this': Burlington family of 8 battles through coronavirus, together," 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, "What went wrong with Tuscaloosa coronavirus tests? Hospital changes course after unusable samples," 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, "Reiki Can’t Possibly Work. So Why Does It?," 7 Mar. 2020 Nearby, one man cleared his throat and spat an oyster of phlegm onto the sidewalk. New York Times, "Modi Orders 3-Week Total Lockdown for All 1.3 Billion Indians," 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, "No confirmed coronavirus cases in Texas, said top health official in Dallas County," 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,, "For families of ALS patients, providing home care can be an infinite challenge," 11 Jan. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about phlegm

Time Traveler for phlegm

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for phlegm

Cite this Entry

“Phlegm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for phlegm



English Language Learners Definition of phlegm

: a thick, yellowish liquid that is produced in the nose and throat especially when a person has a cold
literary : calmness in a difficult or unpleasant situation


\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on phlegm

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!