Definition of phlegm in English:

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Pronunciation: /flɛm/


[mass noun]
1The thick viscous substance secreted by the mucous membranes of the respiratory passages, especially when produced in excessive quantities during a cold.
Example sentences
  • As a result, they can't cough out phlegm and sometimes develop respiratory infections that can quickly become serious.
  • If the disease progresses and cavities form in the lungs, the person may experience coughing and the production of saliva, mucus, or phlegm that may contain blood.
  • COPD (similar to chronic bronchitis) is a disease which narrows the airways, causing excessive amounts of phlegm to be produced and causes shortness of breath in its later stages.
mucus, catarrh, mucous secretion
1.1(In medieval science and medicine) one of the four bodily humours, believed to be associated with a calm, stolid, or apathetic temperament.
Example sentences
  • According to humoral theory, the body comprised of the four humours blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy; and pathological conditions are the result of humoral abnormalities.
  • According to this theory, the most important determinants of health were the four humours found in the body: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile.
  • An example is the belief, originating in classical times, that disease is caused by an imbalance among four bodily humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile.
1.2Calmness of temperament: phlegm and determination carried them through many difficult situations
More example sentences
  • Immigrants living among people from the same country in a kind of ghetto therefore have no incentive to overcome their phlegm and finally learn German.
  • Phlegm (taken in a good sense) is the temperament of cold reflection and perseverance in the pursuit of one's end.



Pronunciation: /ˈflɛmi/
Example sentences
  • Rustling papers, shifting chairs, and phlegmy throats soon wove a tapestry of irritating background noise that climaxed with one broken neck and one unhappy man - to the hilarity of all, I might add.
  • Callum's had a yucky, phlegmy cough for 4 weeks now.
  • Geoffrey Rush, playing the villainous, pop-eyed seadog Barbossa in this enjoyable romp, gives it his best shot, a phlegmy gargle of rage.


Middle English fleem, fleume, from Old French fleume, from late Latin phlegma 'clammy moisture (of the body)', from Greek phlegma 'inflammation', from phlegein 'to burn'. The spelling change in the 16th century was due to association with the Latin and Greek.

Words that rhyme with phlegm

ahem, Belém, Clem, condemn, contemn, crème de la crème, em, gem, hem, Jem, LibDem, pro tem, rem, Shem, stem, them

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: phlegm

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