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[proh-fuh-lak-tik, prof-uh-] /ˌproʊ fəˈlæk tɪk, ˌprɒf ə-/
defending or protecting from disease or infection, as a drug.
preventive or protective.
Medicine/Medical. a prophylactic medicine or measure.
a preventive.
a device, usually a rubber sheath, used to prevent conception or venereal infection; condom.
Origin of prophylactic
1565-75; < Greek prophylaktikós of guarding, equivalent to prophylak- (base of prophylássein to guard beforehand) + -tikos -tic. See prophylaxis
Related forms
prophylactically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for prophylactic
  • prophylactic antibiotics are those used to prevent diarrhea while traveling.
  • In geopolitics, as in life, the best medicine is prophylactic.
  • Researchers want to target this high-risk group with a prophylactic device.
  • If more patients were aware of the wonderful options now available, they might be more willing to undergo prophylactic mastectomy.
  • Either way, sheathing my manhood in a prophylactic into which he had spit wouldn't be the preferred method.
  • Therefore, a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy may be a gamble.
  • The waiver of all points of order against provisions in the bill, as amended, is prophylactic in nature.
  • She doesn't see it yet, but despite her prophylactic efforts, her clothing is stained.
  • While travelers to malarial regions can take prophylactic medicines, these drugs are too toxic for long-term use for residents.
  • But prophylactic antibiotics are of limited benefit if started more than three weeks after someone has been exposed.
British Dictionary definitions for prophylactic


protecting from or preventing disease
protective or preventive
a prophylactic drug or device, esp a condom
Word Origin
C16: via French from Greek prophulaktikos, from prophulassein to guard by taking advance measures, from pro-² + phulax a guard
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for prophylactic

1570s, originally of medicines, "that tends to prevent disease," from Middle French prophylactique (16c.) and directly as a Latinized borrowing of Greek prophylaktikos "precautionary," from prophylassein "keep guard before, ward off, be on one's guard," from pro- "before" (see pro-) + phylassein, Ionic variant of phylattein "to watch over, to guard," but also "cherish, keep, remain in, preserve" (see phylactery).

The noun is first recorded 1640s, "a medicine or treatment to prevent disease;" meaning "condom" is from 1943, replacing earlier preventive (1822), preventative (1901). Condoms originally were used more to thwart contagious disease than to prevent pregnancy.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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prophylactic in Medicine

prophylactic pro·phy·lac·tic (prō'fə-lāk'tĭk, prŏf'ə-)

  1. A prophylactic agent, device, or measure, such as a vaccine or drug.

  2. A contraceptive device, especially a condom.

Acting to defend against or prevent something, especially disease; protective.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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