spu·​tum | \ ˈspyü-təm How to pronounce sputum (audio) , ˈspü- \
plural sputa\ ˈspyü-​tə How to pronounce sputa (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 The disease usually attacks the lungs—resulting in coughing, bloody sputum, fevers, chills. David Treuer, The New York Review of Books, "The Magic Mountains of the Acoma Pueblo and Thomas Mann," 6 July 2020 Testing consists of nose and mouth swabs and collecting sputum, and takes less than a minute. Jun Michael Park, National Geographic, "The best photos of a challenging time," 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, "How long does the coronavirus last inside the body?," 3 June 2020 Their faces soon wear a bluish cast; a distressing cough brings up the blood stained sputum. Gina Kolata, New York Times, "Coronavirus Is Very Different From the Spanish Flu of 1918. Here’s How.," 10 Mar. 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 The samples can be swabs of the nose or mouth and what is called sputum, which is saliva and mucus from the respiratory tract. cleveland, "Coronavirus glossary: Your guide to the language of a pandemic," 12 Mar. 2020 The hospital had used two different methods to test for coronavirus: sputum samples and swabs inserted into the nose. Dennis Pillion | Dpillion@al.com, al, "What went wrong with Tuscaloosa coronavirus tests? Hospital changes course after unusable samples," 21 Mar. 2020 People can also provide both spit and sputum samples as backups. Alice Park, Time, "The First U.S. Company Has Announced an Upcoming Home COVID-19 Test," 18 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

Time Traveler

The first known use of sputum was circa 1693

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Statistics for sputum

Last Updated

18 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sputum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sputum. Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for sputum


How to pronounce sputum (audio)

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 sputa (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)

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More from Merriam-Webster on sputum

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sputum

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sputum

Britannica English: Translation of sputum for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about sputum

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