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[jurm] /dʒɜrm/
a microorganism, especially when disease-producing; microbe.
a bud, offshoot, or seed.
the rudiment of a living organism; an embryo in its early stages.
the initial stage in development or evolution, as a germ cell or ancestral form.
something that serves as a source or initial stage for subsequent development:
the germ of an idea.
Pathology. of, relating to, or caused by disease-producing germs.
Origin of germ
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Middle French germe < Latin germen shoot, sprout, by dissimilation from *genmen, equivalent to gen- (see genitor, genus) + -men resultative noun suffix)
Related forms
germless, adjective
germlike, adjective
4. spark, root, bud, rudiment, seed. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for germ
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It is not only to the most dreaded diseases that he has applied the germ theory.

    Louis Pasteur Ren Vallery-Radot
  • Yet she did not know that she was crushing out the germ which might have grown in his heart.

    Ester Ried Yet Speaking Isabella Alden
  • Often, she had read, the places where kidnapers confined their victims were filthy and germ laden.

  • It implies a pre-existing something, inwrapped as a germ in its environment.

    Life: Its True Genesis R. W. Wright
  • Here is the germ of benefit societies and clubs and insurances and hospitals.

    Cyropaedia Xenophon
  • For nature is of one kindred; and every soul has a seed or germ which may be developed into all knowledge.

    Meno Plato
British Dictionary definitions for germ


a microorganism, esp one that produces disease in animals or plants
(often pl) the rudimentary or initial form of something: the germs of revolution
a simple structure, such as a fertilized egg, that is capable of developing into a complete organism
Word Origin
C17: from French germe, from Latin germen sprig, bud, sprout, seed
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for germ

mid-15c., "bud, sprout;" 1640s, "rudiment of a new organism in an existing one," from Middle French germe "germ (of egg); bud, seed, fruit; offering," from Latin germen (genitive germinis) "sprout, bud," perhaps from PIE root *gen- "to beget, bear" (see genus). The older sense is preserved in wheat germ and germ of an idea; sense of "seed of a disease" first recorded 1803; that of "harmful microorganism" dates from 1871. Germ warfare recorded from 1920.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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germ in Medicine

germ (jûrm)

  1. A small mass of protoplasm or cells from which a new organism or one of its parts may develop.

  2. A microorganism, especially a pathogen.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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germ in Science
A microscopic organism or agent, especially one that is pathogenic, such as a bacterium or virus.

Our Living Language  : The terms germ and microbe have been used to refer to invisible agents of disease since the nineteenth century, when scientists introduced the germ theory of disease, the idea that infections and contagious diseases are caused by microorganisms. Microbe, a shortening and alteration of microorganism, comes from the Greek prefix mikro-, "small," and the word bios, "life." Scientists no longer use the terms germ and microbe very much. Today they can usually identify the specific agents of disease, such as individual species of bacteria or viruses. To refer generally to agents of disease, they use the term pathogen, from the Greek pathos, "suffering," and the suffix -gen, "producer." They use microorganism to refer to any unicellular organism, whether disease-causing or not.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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