Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A characteristic sign or indication of the existence of something else: "The affair is a symptom of a global marital disturbance; it is not the disturbance itself” ( Maggie Scarf). See Synonyms at sign.
  • n. A sign or an indication of disorder or disease, especially when experienced by an individual as a change from normal function, sensation, or appearance.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A perceived change in some function, sensation or appearance of a person that indicates a disease or disorder, such as fever, headache or rash.
  • n. Anything that indicates, or is characteristic of, the presence of something else, especially of something undesirable.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Any affection which accompanies disease; a perceptible change in the body or its functions, which indicates disease, or the kind or phases of disease.
  • n. A sign or token; that which indicates the existence of something else.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One of the departures from normal function or form which a disease presents, especially one of the more evident of such departures.
  • n. Any sign or indication; that which indicates the existence of something else.
  • n. paralysis of the facial muscles for the automatic movements of expression, with retention of the power of voluntary motion.
  • n. the occurrence of a paroxysm when the motor nerve of a limb is compressed in tetany.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. (medicine) any sensation or change in bodily function that is experienced by a patient and is associated with a particular disease
  • n. anything that accompanies X and is regarded as an indication of X's existence

Etymologies

Middle English sinthoma, symptom of a disease, from Medieval Latin sinthōma, from Late Latin symptōma, from Greek sumptōma, sumptōmat-, a happening, symptom of a disease, from sumpiptein, sumptō-, to coincide : sun-, syn- + piptein, to falls.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek σύμπτωμα (sumptōma, "a happening, accident, symptom of disease"), from stem of συμπίπτω (sumpiptō, "Ι befall"), from συν- (sun-, "together") + πίπτω (piptō, "I fall"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The word "symptom" comes from a Greek word meaning "accident, misfortune, that which befalls": certainly an unhealthy attitude toward a choice that can be the most joyous event of a person's life.

    All Categories Featured Content - Associated Content

  • "The main symptom is that you just can't sustain the activity you're doing," explains Howard Backer, M.D., past president of the Wilderness Medical Society and an expert on environmental heat illnesses.

    Why Heatstroke is a Threat to Hunters and Fishermen, How to Recognize it, and How to Avoid It

  • The symptoms you describe sound like Dengue II since the main symptom is bleeding, both internal and external from the eyes, nose, etc.

    Weather in Ajijic

  • In the lightest form, the main symptom is prurience or itching.

    Charles Richet - Nobel Lecture

  • Oh -- and while the highlight of last night's television viewing was, as ever, "House" (the old woman who was exhibiting Fannish Squee as a symptom is a moment that should be noted), PAX's "Young Blades" actually wasn't bad.

    for those who asked: the kids

  • Mr. Monroy-Hernández at M.I.T. said that the spread of social media, which he describes as a symptom of institutional dysfunction, will probably not "play a central role in fighting the problem."

    NYT > Home Page

  • Pietz added Loughner now makes eye contact with people and no longer has the inappropriate smirk seen at previous court hearings, which she described as a symptom of his mental illness.

    The Seattle Times

  • Mr. Monroy-Hernández at M.I.T. said that the spread of social media, which he describes as a symptom of broader institutional dysfunction, will probably not "play a central role in fighting the problem."

    NYT > Home Page

  • The word "symptom" comes from a Greek root and refers to "something that falls together with something else."

    Dana Ullman: Unplugging From Your Medicine Cabinet: Respecting the Body's Intelligence

  • BenP: Suppose a patient comes into the hospital and his primary symptom is that he has pain in his shoulder up to his neck and down the right side of his body and is also feeling a little short of breath.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen

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