Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a sign that someone has an illness

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun symptom comes from Greek via medieval Latin. It was first used in English in the late 14th century.


In addition to its medical use, the noun symptom has a figurative use: a symptom of a problem is a sign of it. The related adjective symptomatic follows the same pattern: a symptomatic person or disease shows the symptoms of an illness, while something that is symptomatic of a problem or bad situation is an indication of its existence. The adverb symptomatically shows the same literal-figurative pairing. The opposite of symptomatic, asymptomatic, has no figurative meaning, however.


This manoeuvre would resolve some symptoms of the political crisis in terms of electoral legitimacy of the government.
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“These measures are symptomatic of a reconfiguration of our society into a totalitarian security and surveillance state.
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“No definite diagnosis could be given and the patient was treated symptomatically.
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While it is generally clear what ‘we’ means, who it means is symptomatically ambiguous.
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Related words

indication, signal, suggestion, sign

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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