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1929, coined in English by Alexander Fleming (1881-1955), who first recognized its antibiotic properties, from Modern Latin Penicillium notatum (1867), the name of the mould from which it was first obtained, from Latin penicillus "paintbrush" (see pencil (n.)), in reference to the shape of the mould cells.
penicillin pen·i·cil·lin (pěn'ĭ-sĭl'ĭn)
Any of a group of broad-spectrum antibiotic drugs obtained from penicillium molds or produced synthetically, most active against gram-positive bacteria and used in the treatment of various infections and diseases.
An antibiotic drug obtained from molds of the genus Penicillium and used to treat or prevent various infections caused by gram-positive bacteria such as streptococcus. Penicillin was the first of a class of antibiotics (whose names end in -icillin) that are derived from it and are active against a broader spectrum of bacteria. See Note at Alexander Fleming.
An antibiotic that is used to treat infections caused by some kinds of bacteria. Penicillin, which is derived from a common kind of mold that grows on bread and fruit, was the first antibiotic discovered and put into widespread use.
Note: Penicillin was first widely used during World War II.