Definition of germ in English:


Syllabification: germ
Pronunciation: /jərm


  • 1A microorganism, especially one that causes disease.
    More example sentences
    • But since pasteurisation kills not only germs but also useful bacteria, a culture is added to the milk in order to reintroduce all essential bacteria.
    • Like many germs, the bacteria that cause botulism in infants are everywhere in the environment.
    • The hands that treat patients and the instruments used to save lives could be spreading deadly germs.
    microbe, microorganism, bacillus, bacterium, virus
    informal bug
  • 2A portion of an organism capable of developing into a new one or part of one. Compare with germ cell.
    More example sentences
    • Many multicellular organisms have a germ that is segregated early in the development.
    • These bodies are obviously organized, resembling in all points the germs of the lowest organisms, and diverse in size and structure.
    • A mesenchymal signal triggers an ectodermal cell to proliferate and the cells grow downward to form a hair germ.
  • 2.1The embryo in a cereal grain or other plant seed. Compare with wheat germ.
    More example sentences
    • Parching destroys the germ so the seed will not sprout, hardens the kernel, and loosens the tight hull so it can be removed.
    • After the husk is removed, the rice is milled to remove the bran and the germ or embryo.
    • Damage occurs when beetles feed on the seed and destroy the germ, resulting in an uneven stand.
    embryo, bud; seed, spore, ovule; egg, ovum
  • 2.2An initial stage from which something may develop: the germ of a brilliant idea
    More example sentences
    • With the germ of an idea in mind, he boarded a plane to China in search of the products.
    • Here we see the germ of a practice which later on developed into the European feudal system.
    • Children in such families are quick to be inoculated with the germ of duplicity.
    start, beginning(s), seed, embryo, bud, root, rudiment; origin, source, potential; core, nucleus, kernel, essence



informal sense 1.
More example sentences
  • I could take along knitting, but hospitals are probably dirty, germy places.
  • Door handles and opening panels on doors are, in fact, more germy than floors, walls, and most other surfaces.
  • With her assistant's help, Sadlier started to clean everything germy in the office, from doorknobs to light switches.


late Middle English (sense 2): via Old French from Latin germen 'seed, sprout'. sense 1 dates from the late 19th century.

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