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 organism appears.
In the entire process in which a new being originates . . . two distinct classes of action participate; namely, the act of generation by which the germ is produced; and the act of development, by which that germ is evolved into the complete organism. --Carpenter.
2. That from which anything springs; origin; first principle; as, the germ of civil liberty.
3. Biol. The germ cells, collectively, as distinguished from the somatic cells, or soma. Germ is often used in place of germinal to form phrases; as, germ area, germ disc, germ membrane, germ nucleus, germ sac, etc.
Disease germ Biol., a name applied to certain tiny bacterial organisms or their spores, such as Anthrax bacillus and the Micrococcus of fowl cholera, which have been demonstrated to be the cause of certain diseases; same as germ4. See Germ theory (below).
Germ cell Biol., the germ, egg, spore, or cell from which the plant or animal arises. At one time a part of the body of the parent, it finally becomes detached, and by a process of multiplication and growth gives rise to a mass of cells, which ultimately form a new individual like the parent. See Ovum.
Germ gland. Anat. See Gonad.
Germ stock Zool., a special process on which buds are developed in certain animals. See Doliolum.
Germ theory Biol., the theory that living organisms can be produced only by the evolution or development of living germs or seeds. See Biogenesis, and Abiogenesis. As applied to the origin of disease, the theory claims that the zymotic diseases are due to the rapid development and multiplication of various bacteria, the germs or spores of which are either contained in the organism itself, or transferred through the air or water. See Fermentation theory.