1. Biology A small mass of protoplasm or cells from which a new organism or one of its parts may develop.
2. The earliest form of an organism; a seed, bud, or spore.
3. A microorganism, especially a pathogen.
4. Something that may serve as the basis of further growth or development: the germ of a project.
[Middle English, bud, from Old French germe, from Latin germen; see genə- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.