plural in form but singular or plural in construction
: a contagious tropical disease especially of children caused by a spirochete (Treponema pertenue) closely resembling the causative agent of syphilis and marked by infectious ulcerative skin lesions with later bone involvement

called also frambesia

Examples of yaws in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Campaigns to wipe out yaws, syphilis, malaria, smallpox and polio required syringes, and many were reused, often with official approval. Andrew Moseman, Discover Magazine, 20 Sep. 2010 Treponemal diseases including syphilis and yaws can leave distinct lesions on bones of the infected, as seen on these remains of infants from Mexico's Colonial Era. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, 21 June 2018 In Latin America, the crusted and scalloped erosions from leishmaniasis were commonly known as forest yaws, or chiclero’s ulcer. Claire Panosian Dunavan, Discover Magazine, 28 Dec. 2016 Today, syphilis and other conditions caused by the same bacterium, Treponema pallidum, such as yaws and bejel, are making a comeback, with millions of people infected every year. Charlotte Hartley, Science | AAAS, 13 Aug. 2020 One of the men had a strain of the virus that causes hepatitis B; another suffered from yaws, a syphilis-like bacterial infection of the skin, bones and cartilage. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, 4 May 2020 Similar to syphilis, the same strain of yaws was previously identified in a 17th-century colonist of European descent, according to the researchers. Fox News, 1 May 2020 Her own research has led her to suspect that the treponema bacteria originated in the New World, manifesting as yaws and spread through skin-to-skin contact exposed by a warm climate. National Geographic, 21 June 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'yaws.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


probably from an English-based creole of the Caribbean

First Known Use

1679, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of yaws was in 1679

Dictionary Entries Near yaws

Cite this Entry

“Yaws.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yaws. Accessed 13 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


singular or plural noun
: a tropical contagious skin disease especially of children caused by a bacterium that is a spirochete

Medical Definition


noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction
: an infectious contagious tropical disease especially of children that is caused by a spirochete of the genus Treponema (T. pertenue) and that is characterized by a primary ulcerating lesion on the skin followed by a secondary stage in which ulcers develop all over the body and by a third stage in which the bones are involved
Yaws is a chronic childhood infection spread by casual contact and causing long-lasting sores on the legs and and arms. In time this infection attacks the bones, leaving scars similar to those from syphilis.John Noble Wilford
Other threats came from organisms co-evolving with humans, including tapeworms and such bacteria as Treponema, the agent of syphilis, and the similar skin infection, yaws.Roy Porter

called also frambesia, pian

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