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An infectious disease caused by a spirochete (Treponema pallidum),usually transmitted sexually or in utero, marked initially by local formation of chancres and progressing if untreated to bacteremia and widespread organ damage, such as skin ulcerations and tabes dorsalis.
[New Latin, from Syphilis, sive Morbus Gallicus, "Syphilis, or the French Disease," title of a poem by Girolamo Fracastoro (1478?-1553), from Syphilus, the poem's protagonist.]
Word History: When syphilis began to ravage Europe in the late 1400s, it was described with such terms as the "Neapolitan disease," "Spanish disease," and "French disease," according to national prejudices of the person discussing the illness. In 1530, the Veronese physician and poet Girolamo Fracastoro offered Europeans a mythological scapegoat in his long Latin poem Syphilis, sive Morbus Gallicus ("Syphilis, or the French Disease.") In the poem's opening section, Fracastoro argues that the disease was introduced to Europe by the French, but he also adds at the end of the poem two mythological tales written in the style of the Roman poet Ovid and giving supernatural accounts of its origin and supposed cures. In one of these tales, Spanish sailors who have landed in the Americas become infected with syphilis after killing Apollo's sacred parrots. In the other tale, a group of natives tell the sailors the story of a shepherd, Syphilus, who had seen his flock suffering from heat and thirst and cursed the sun god Apollo. The god then afflicted Syphilus with sores, and the scourge spread from him throughout the land. The people of the shepherd's country began to call the disease syphilis, a word formed in Latin from the shepherd's name Syphilus. Eventually, it was decided that the only way to end the plague was to sacrifice Syphilus to Apollo, but Juno interceded, had Syphilus spared, and gave the people a cure, the guaiacum tree. The source of the shepherd's name Syphilus itself is not known, but it has been suggested that Fracastoro adapted it from Ovid's Metamorphoses. In this work, Sipylus is one of the sons of Niobe, a noble woman of Asia Minor who boasted that she was more worthy of honor than the goddess Leto, mother of Artemis and Apollo. Leto had borne only two children, said Niobe, while she herself had fourteen fine sons and daughters. To punish the insult, Artemis and Apollo slew Niobe's children, and Niobe was transformed into a rock on a mountain also called Sipylus, located near the modern city of Izmir, Turkey. (Perhaps Fracastoro intended the name Syphilus to evoke associations with the wrath of Apollo, whose arrows caused plagues.) Eventually, Fracastoro came to recognize that guaiacum was not an effective cure for the "French disease," but he continued to use syphilis as a name for it in De Contagione, ("On Contagion"), an influential work in which he proposed that disease spreads by the transfer of minute disease-causing particles, either directly or by sharing contaminated objects—an important step in the development of the modern germ theory of disease.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
(Pathology) a venereal disease caused by infection with the microorganism Treponema pallidum: characterized by an ulcerating chancre, usually on the genitals and progressing through the lymphatic system to nearly all tissues of the body, producing serious clinical manifestations
[C18: from New Latin Syphilis (sive Morbus Gallicus) 'Syphilis (or the French disease)', title of a poem (1530) by G. Fracastoro, Italian physician and poet, in which a shepherd Syphilus is portrayed as the first victim of the disease]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
syph•i•lis(ˈsɪf ə lɪs)
a chronic infectious disease caused by a spirochete, Treponema pallidum, usu. venereal in origin but often congenital, affecting almost any body organ, esp. the genitals, skin, brain, and nervous tissue.
[< New Latin, coined by Giovanni Fracastoro (1478–1553), Italian physician, in his poem Syphilis, sive morbus Gallicus (“Syphilis, or the French Disease”)]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
A sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterial infection that is characterized in its early stages by sores on the genitals. If untreated, skin ulcers develop, followed by often fatal infection of major organs of the body.
The American Heritage® Student Science Dictionary, Second Edition. Copyright © 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
A sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria.
Dictionary of Unfamiliar Words by Diagram Group Copyright © 2008 by Diagram Visual Information Limited
Switch to new thesaurus
|Noun||1.||syphilis - a common venereal disease caused by the treponema pallidum spirochete; symptoms change through progressive stages; can be congenital (transmitted through the placenta)|
sexually transmitted disease, social disease, STD, VD, venereal disease, venereal infection, Venus's curse, Cupid's disease, Cupid's itch, dose - a communicable infection transmitted by sexual intercourse or genital contact
primary syphilis - the first stage; characterized by a chancre at the site of infection
secondary syphilis - the second stage; characterized by eruptions of the skin and mucous membrane
tertiary syphilis - the third stage; characterized by involvement of internal organs especially the brain and spinal cord as well as the heart and liver
neurosyphilis - syphilis of the central nervous system
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
syphilis[ˈsɪfɪlɪs] N → sífilis f
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005
syphilis[ˈsɪfɪlɪs] n → syphilis f
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
n → Syphilis f
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007
syphilis[ˈsɪfɪlɪs] n → sifilide f
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995
n. sífilis, enfermedad venérea contagiosa que se manifiesta en lesiones cutáneas, usualmente transmitida por contacto directo.
English-Spanish Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012
syphilisn sífilis f
English-Spanish/Spanish-English Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.