ton·​sil | \ˈtän(t)-səl \

Definition of tonsil 

1 : either of a pair of prominent masses of lymphoid tissue that lie one on each side of the throat between two folds of soft tissue that bound the fauces

2 : any of various masses of lymphoid tissue (such as the adenoids) that are similar to tonsils

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Other Words from tonsil

tonsillar \ ˈtän(t)-​s(ə-​)lər \ adjective

Examples of tonsil in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Jahi’s case, which drew national attention and launched a debate over how to define death, began in December 2013 when the 13-year-old underwent a routine surgery to remove her tonsils, adenoids and uvula. Alene Tchekmedyian,, "Jahi McMath, girl at center of debate over brain death, dies, mother says," 29 June 2018 Symptoms of mononucleosis include a sore throat, enlarged tonsils, laryngitis, swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpits, fever, head and body aches. New York Times, "My Daughter Has Mono. Is the Whole Family at Risk?," 29 June 2018 Take James Alison Glover, a doctor, who noted that, by 1938, 83% of new boys at Eton, England’s poshest public school, had no tonsils (perhaps so the silver spoons could fit). The Economist, "Hospitals are learning from industry how to cut medical errors," 28 June 2018 Jahi went into cardiac arrest while recovering from surgery to remove her tonsils, adenoids and uvula along with bony structures from her nose and throat and palate tissue. CBS News, "Jahi McMath taken out of Oakland hospital in private ambulance, now in custody of mom," 6 Jan. 2014 Yet just 2% of Basque refugee children fleeing the Spanish civil war then raging had their tonsils out, and were no worse off for it. The Economist, "Hospitals are learning from industry how to cut medical errors," 28 June 2018 That’s less than one-tenth the rate of post-procedure emergency department visits by patients who have recently had their tonsils removed. Melissa Healy,, "Scant abortion-related ER visits suggest there's no medical basis for restrictive laws, study says," 15 June 2018 Historically, oropharyngeal cancer, or cancer of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils, was caused by tobacco and alcohol abuse and was most commonly diagnosed in patients over age 60. Shayne Benowitz, miamiherald, "Oral sex is causing a big jump in HPV throat cancer in men | Miami Herald," 24 May 2018 Image More than 530,000 children have their tonsils or adenoids removed in the United States each year to prevent recurrent infections and sleep or breathing disorders. Nicholas Bakalar, New York Times, "Tonsillectomy Risks May Outweigh Benefits," 7 June 2018

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

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tonsil

Latin tonsillae, plural, tonsils

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Statistics for tonsil

Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for tonsil

The first known use of tonsil was in 1601

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More Definitions for tonsil



English Language Learners Definition of tonsil

: either one of the pair of round, soft parts on the inside of your throat


ton·​sil | \ˈtän-səl \

Kids Definition of tonsil

: either of a pair of masses of spongy tissue at the back of the mouth


ton·​sil | \ˈtän(t)-səl \

Medical Definition of tonsil 

1a : either of a pair of prominent masses of lymphoid tissue that lie one on each side of the throat between the anterior and posterior pillars of the fauces and are composed of lymph follicles grouped around one or more deep crypts and except for the exposed surface which is covered only by epithelium are surrounded by diffuse lymphoid tissue in a fibrous capsule

called also palatine tonsil

b : pharyngeal tonsil

c : lingual tonsil

2 : a rounded prominence situated medially on the lower surface of each lateral hemisphere of the cerebellum

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More from Merriam-Webster on tonsil

Spanish Central: Translation of tonsil

Nglish: Translation of tonsil for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on tonsil

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to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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