germ, microbe, bacterium, bacillus, virus, though not strict synonyms, are comparable because all denote organisms invisible to the naked eye, including organisms that are the causative agents of various diseases.
Germ and microbe are the ordinary nonscientific names for such an organism and especially for one that causes disease. Bacteria, the plural of bacterium and the form commonly in general use, is often employed as the equivalent of germs and microbes. Technically, it is the scientific designation of a large group of prokaryotic microbes which are found widely distributed in water, air, soil, living things, and dead organic matter, which have structural and biological characteristics distinguishing them from other unicellular microorganisms (as protozoans), and only some of which are instrumental in producing disease in man, animals, and plants. In addition to the pathogenic or disease-causing bacteria there are the saprophytic bacteria which live upon dead or decaying organic matter and which, for the most part, are beneficial in their effects which include many natural chemical processes (as fermentation, oxidation, and nitrification).
Bacillus is often employed as though it designated any of the pathogenic bacteria. In technical scientific usage it denotes any of a genus of bacteria which originally included all or most rod-shaped forms and is now restricted to a group of mostly soil-inhabiting, aerobic, and saprophytic forms that produce endospores. However, it is often used of rod- shaped bacteria in general, especially as distinguished from those which are globe-shaped (the coccus form, of which the streptococcus is an example) and those which are spiral (the spirillum form, of which the vibrio which causes Asiatic cholera is an example, and the spirochete form, exemplified by the treponema of syphilis). It is common, especially in medical usage, to speak of the bacilli of such diseases as typhoid, diphtheria, and tetanus, though none of these are true bacilli in the restricted taxonomic sense.
Virus, in earlier use, was an imperceptible infectious principle of unknown nature occurring in the body of a diseased individual and held to be involved in the transfer of infectious diseases. In this sense it has been applied to most germs or microbes while their specific nature remained unknown, as well as to bodily fluids and discharges containing such infective agents

by [virus] is understood a principle, unknown in its nature and inappreciable by the senses, which is the agent for the transmission of infectious diseases. Thus we speak of the variolic, vaccine, and syphilitic viruses— Dunglison

A vestige of this meaning persists in immunologic usage with respect to materials (as vaccine lymph) ihat are antigenic but not usually infective

when the doctors inoculate you . . . they give you an infinitesimally attenuated dose. If they gave you the virus at full strength it would overcome your resistance and produce its direct effect— Shaw

In general modern usage virus is equivalent to filterable virus and is restricted to a variety of parasitic and infective agents which are able in nature to multiply only in living tissues, are so small that they pass through the pores of bacteriological filters, and are generally invisible with the ordinary light microscope. They include noncellular microbes (as herpesviruses, poliovirus, and tobacco mosaic virus) that lie on the border between the living and nonliving, may consist of a single macromolecule of DNA or RNA in a protein case, and are capable on the one hand of existing in the crystalline state and on the other, when introduced into suitable cells, of multiplying like a true organism

it appears that energy for virus synthesis is provided by enzyme systems already present in the normal host cell. . . . Investigations carried out thus far have not detected any biochemical activity by the virus. However, if the assumption is made that the virus simply stimulates its own production by the host cell, it would appear that it is a very inefficient parasite— Weiss


New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.


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  • Germ (MC) — Germ (bürgerlich René Swain; * 15. Februar 1969 in Groß Umstadt) ist ein deutscher Rapper. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Kindheit 2 Karriere 3 Diskografie 4 Weblinks …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Germ — (j[ e]rm), n. [F. germe, fr. L. germen, germinis, sprout, but, germ. Cf. {Germen}, {Germane}.] 1. (Biol.) That which is to develop a new individual; as, the germ of a fetus, of a plant or flower, and the like; the earliest form under which an… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Germ-X — is the brand name of a line of antibacterial and antimicrobial products marketed in the United States. Germ X products include instant hand sanitizer gels, foaming hand soap, and soft wipes. Germ X products are manufactured by Vi Jon Laboratories …   Wikipedia

  • Germ — can mean: * Microorganism, especially a pathogenic one; see Germ theory of disease. * Germ cell, a cell that has all the information to grow into a complete adult organism. * The Germ (periodical), a periodical established by the Pre Raphaelite… …   Wikipedia

  • germ — [dʒə:m US dʒə:rm] n [Date: 1400 1500; : French; Origin: germe, from Latin germen seed, bud, germ , from gignere; GENITAL] 1.) a very small living thing that can make you ill →↑bacteria ▪ Put disinfectant down the toilet to kill any germs. 2.) …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • germ — (n.) mid 15c., bud, sprout; 1640s, rudiment of a new organism in an existing one, from M.Fr. germe germ (of egg); bud, seed, fruit; offering, from L. germen (gen. germinis) sprout, bud, perhaps from PIE root *gen to beget, bear (see GENUS (Cf.… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Germ — bezeichnet: Backhefe einen deutschen Rapper, siehe Germ (MC) eine französische Gemeinde, siehe Germ (Hautes Pyrénées) Die Abkürzung germ. steht für: germanisch (g.), vergleiche Germanische Sprachen Siehe auch: Germknödel …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Germ — País …   Wikipedia Español

  • germ — [ dʒɜrm ] noun 1. ) count a form of bacteria that spreads disease among people or animals: Strep is very different from the germ that causes ordinary sore throats. 2. ) singular something that could develop into a greater idea or plan: the germ… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • germ — [jʉrm] n. [ME germe, a bud, sprout < OFr < L germen, sprig, bud, germ, embryo < IE * gen men (> Sans janiman , birth, origin) < base * ĝen : see GENUS] 1. the rudimentary form from which a new organism is developed; seed; bud 2.… …   English World dictionary

  • Germ — Germ, v. i. To germinate. [R.] J. Morley. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English