1. a microorganism, especially when disease-producing; microbe.
  2. a bud, offshoot, or seed.
  3. the rudiment of a living organism; an embryo in its early stages.
  4. the initial stage in development or evolution, as a germ cell or ancestral form.
  5. something that serves as a source or initial stage for subsequent development: the germ of an idea.


  1. Pathology. of, relating to, or caused by disease-producing germs.


  1. a microorganism, esp one that produces disease in animals or plants
  2. (often plural) the rudimentary or initial form of somethingthe germs of revolution
  3. a simple structure, such as a fertilized egg, that is capable of developing into a complete organism

mid-15c., “bud, sprout;” 1640s, “rudiment of a new organism in an existing one,” from Middle French germe “germ (of egg); bud, seed, fruit; offering,” from Latin germen (genitive germinis) “sprout, bud,” perhaps from PIE root *gen- “to beget, bear” (see genus). The older sense is preserved in wheat germ and germ of an idea; sense of “seed of a disease” first recorded 1803; that of “harmful microorganism” dates from 1871. Germ warfare recorded from 1920.


  1. A small mass of protoplasm or cells from which a new organism or one of its parts may develop.
  2. A microorganism, especially a pathogen.

  1. A microscopic organism or agent, especially one that is pathogenic, such as a bacterium or virus.

Microorganisms that can cause disease or infection.

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