spu·​tum | \ ˈspyü-təm How to pronounce sputum (audio) , ˈspü- \
plural sputa\ ˈspyü-​tə How to pronounce sputum (audio) , ˈspü-​ \ also sputums

Definition of sputum

: matter expectorated from the respiratory system and especially the lungs that is composed of mucus but may contain pus, blood, fibrin, or microorganisms (such as bacteria) in diseased states

Examples of sputum in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web This study broke new ground in examining lung tissue instead of sputum or bronchial washing, and using a technique to identify each cell in a tissue sample. Julie Washington, cleveland, 3 May 2021 Invented in 1983, PCR is a multi-step test to detect infectious agents, including viruses in humans, using a sample of sputum or other genetic material. David Willman, Anchorage Daily News, 26 Dec. 2020 Noses run, sputum flies and goiters swell to bursting. Washington Post, 16 Dec. 2020 But now, experts know that the bacteria live in thick mucus called sputum in a person’s lower respiratory system—the lower throat and lungs. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Feb. 2020 The disease usually attacks the lungs—resulting in coughing, bloody sputum, fevers, chills. David Treuer, The New York Review of Books, 6 July 2020 Testing consists of nose and mouth swabs and collecting sputum, and takes less than a minute. Jun Michael Park, National Geographic, 3 July 2020 One study in Germany looked at nine mild cases and found that live viruses could not be grown from throat swabs or sputum samples eight days after symptoms started. Lois Parshley, National Geographic, 3 June 2020 Their faces soon wear a bluish cast; a distressing cough brings up the blood stained sputum. Gina Kolata, New York Times, 10 Mar. 2020

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

circa 1693, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sputum

Latin, from neuter of sputus, past participle of spuere to spit — more at spew

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Time Traveler for sputum

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The first known use of sputum was circa 1693

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sputum cup

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Cite this Entry

“Sputum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sputum. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of sputum

medical : a thick liquid that comes up from your lungs when you are sick


spu·​tum | \ ˈsp(y)üt-əm How to pronounce sputum (audio) \
plural sputa\ -​ə How to pronounce sputum (audio) \

Medical Definition of sputum

: matter expectorated from the respiratory system and especially the lungs in diseased states that is composed of mucus but may contain pus, blood, fibrin, or microorganisms (as bacteria)

More from Merriam-Webster on sputum

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sputum

Britannica English: Translation of sputum for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about sputum


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