Medical Definition of Germ

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/21/2018

Germ: 1. A cell or group of cells (called a primordium) capable of developing into an organ, a part or an organism in its entirety. Eggs and sperm are germ cells.

2. A pathogenic a microorganism. A microbe capable of causing disease. The germ theory of disease held, correctly, that these minute bodies can cause disease.

3. The figurative source or wellspring. Dr. Watson told Holmes he had the germ of an idea.

Germ is a deceptively simple word that came to us from Latin germen, meaning a sprout, bud, or offshoot. In all of its meanings, the term germ retains the idea of developing into something more mature.

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Reviewed on 12/21/2018