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[ton-suh l] /ˈtɒn səl/
noun, Anatomy
a prominent oval mass of lymphoid tissue on each side of the throat.
1595-1605; < Latin tōnsillae (plural) the tonsils
Related forms
tonsillar, tonsilar, tonsillary
[ton-suh-ler-ee] /ˈtɒn səˌlɛr i/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for tonsils
  • But he's having a lot of pain and it's not his tonsils--they're not even red--so it must be coming from farther down.
  • The tonsils are lymph nodes in the back of the mouth and top of the throat.
  • The doctor will look for redness and pus-filled patches on the tonsils and back of the throat.
  • Often, adenoid removal is done at the same time as a tonsillectomy, surgery to remove the tonsils.
  • With a sore throat, sometimes the tonsils or surrounding parts of the throat are inflamed.
  • Your throat will be swabbed in the area of the tonsils.
  • The health care provider rubs a sterile cotton swab along the back of your throat near the tonsils.
  • Adenoids are collections of spongy lymph tissue in the back of the throat, similar to the tonsils.
  • Or, you'd rather have your tonsils removed without anesthesia than spend time at a mall.
British Dictionary definitions for tonsils


Also called palatine tonsil. either of two small masses of lymphatic tissue situated one on each side of the back of the mouth related adjective amygdaline
(anatomy) any small rounded mass of tissue, esp lymphatic tissue
Derived Forms
tonsillar, tonsillary, adjective
Word Origin
C17: from Latin tōnsillae (pl) tonsils, of uncertain origin
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 tonsils



c.1600, from Latin tonsillae (plural) "tonsils," diminutive of toles "goiter," which is perhaps of Gaulish origin.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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tonsils in Medicine

tonsil ton·sil (tŏn'səl)

  1. A collection of lymphoid tissue.

  2. A small oral mass of lymphoid tissue, especially either of two such masses embedded in the lateral walls of the opening between the mouth and the pharynx, of uncertain function, but believed to help protect the body from respiratory infections. Also called faucial tonsil, palatine tonsil.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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tonsils in Science
The two oval-shaped masses of tissue at the back of the throat that lie between the mouth and the pharynx. The tonsils are thought to prevent infections of the breathing passages but often become infected themselves.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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tonsils in Culture

tonsils definition

Two masses of tissue on either side of the throat. The tonsils, part of the lymphatic system, help defend the body against harmful microorganisms.

Note: Formerly, tonsils were often removed surgically in childhood, but now they are not, unless the tonsils have grown too large or are continually subject to infection.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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