symp·​tom ˈsim(p)-təm How to pronounce symptom (audio)
: subjective evidence of disease or physical disturbance
broadly : something that indicates the presence of bodily disorder
: an evident reaction by a plant to a pathogen
: something that indicates the existence of something else
symptoms of an inner turmoil
: a slight indication : trace
symptomless adjective
Choose the Right Synonym for symptom

sign, mark, token, note, symptom mean a discernible indication of what is not itself directly perceptible.

sign applies to any indication to be perceived by the senses or the reason.

encouraging signs for the economy

mark suggests something impressed on or inherently characteristic of a thing often in contrast to general outward appearance.

a mark of a good upbringing

token applies to something that serves as a proof of something intangible.

this gift is a token of our esteem

note suggests a distinguishing mark or characteristic.

a note of irony in her writing

symptom suggests an outward indication of an internal change or condition.

rampant crime is a symptom of that city's decay

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web In recent years, membership at many chapters has decreased — a symptom of a larger trend among social organizations. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, 21 Mar. 2023 At three months, almost half of those who tested positive had at least one symptom, either a persistent or new one, while a quarter of those who tested negative did, with fatigue being similar. Ed Stannard, Hartford Courant, 1 Feb. 2023 The primary symptom of SAD is sadness, which distinguishes it from other depression-like ailments. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 15 Dec. 2022 Out-rebounded: Another symptom of San Antonio outplaying Miami in the paint was the result on the boards. Adam Lichtenstein, Sun Sentinel, 10 Dec. 2022 The meaninglessness associated with inefficacy, the third symptom of burnout, is trickier to tackle. Dianna Mazzone, Allure, 19 Aug. 2022 The virtual visits with a healthcare provider stopped after patients met CDC criteria for discontinuation of home isolation (10 days after a positive test or first symptom, and no fever for 24 hours). Ashley Abramson,, 13 Apr. 2022 The first symptom of the syndrome is a lingering fever. Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 19 Feb. 2022 Speed is crucial in delivering antibody therapy, which should start as soon as possible after a positive test result and within 10 days of symptom onset. Caroline Behr And Michael L. Barnett, STAT, 8 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'symptom.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Late Latin symptomat-, symptoma, from Greek symptōmat-, symptōma happening, attribute, symptom, from sympiptein to happen, from syn- + piptein to fall — more at feather

First Known Use

1541, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of symptom was in 1541

Dictionary Entries Near symptom

Cite this Entry

“Symptom.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


symp·​tom ˈsim(p)-təm How to pronounce symptom (audio)
: a change in a living thing that indicates the presence of a disease or other physical disorder
especially : one (as a headache) that can be felt or sensed only by the individual affected
: something that shows that something else exists : indication
symptomless adjective

Medical Definition


symp·​tom ˈsim(p)-təm How to pronounce symptom (audio)
: subjective evidence of disease or physical disturbance observed by the patient
headache is a symptom of many diseases
visual disturbances may be a symptom of retinal arteriosclerosis
broadly : something that indicates the presence of a physical disorder compare sign sense 2
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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