Definition of phlegm in English:



mass noun
  • 1The thick viscous substance secreted by the mucous membranes of the respiratory passages, especially when produced in excessive quantities during a cold.

    • ‘Several respiratory symptoms among plywood workers have been found, including cough, phlegm, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and chest colds.’
    • ‘You've probably seen - and heard - them in the gym: people sniffling, sneezing, coughing up phlegm.’
    • ‘Children exposed to secondhand smoke are also more likely to have reduced lung function and symptoms of respiratory irritation like cough, excess phlegm, and wheeze.’
    • ‘Wheeze is just one of a constellation of common respiratory symptoms, including cough, phlegm, and shortness of breath.’
    • ‘In a comparison of a low-pollution rural and a high-pollution urban area in Italy, the residents of the latter had a greater prevalence of respiratory symptoms, except chronic phlegm.’
    • ‘If the disease progresses and cavities form in the lungs, the person may experience coughing and the production of saliva, mucus, or phlegm that may contain blood.’
    • ‘However, susceptibility to respiratory morbidity varies among smokers and chronic cough and phlegm production and other respiratory-related morbidity occur in nonsmokers.’
    • ‘As a result, they can't cough out phlegm and sometimes develop respiratory infections that can quickly become serious.’
    • ‘A cough is a reflex action to clear the airways of mucus, phlegm, irritants or a foreign body.’
    • ‘COPD (similar to chronic bronchitis) is a disease which narrows the airways, causing excessive amounts of phlegm to be produced and causes shortness of breath in its later stages.’
    • ‘When they are irritated they narrow, the muscles around them tighten, and there may be an increase in production of sticky mucus or phlegm.’
    • ‘A coughing fit brought up some more thick phlegm.’
    • ‘You may begin with a dry cough, then produce phlegm as the cold progresses.’
    • ‘During this time, active smoking decreased, particularly in men, as well as slightly did the prevalence of respiratory symptoms, such as phlegm and cough.’
    • ‘Our purpose was to identify the following major symptoms of chronic respiratory airways diseases: chronic cough, chronic phlegm, dyspnea, and wheezing.’
    • ‘Acute bronchitis is a clinical diagnosis designating an acute respiratory tract infection in which cough, with or without phlegm, is a predominant feature.’
    • ‘This herb should not be used by those with wind cold conditions such as the common cold when there is phlegm nor should it be used when there is Spleen deficiency with diarrhea.’
    • ‘The remedy has a particularly potent curative effect on chronic bronchitis, coughs, and asthma due to excessive phlegm.’
    • ‘Production of phlegm, shortness of breath, and wheezing were significantly more prevalent in exposed than in reference subjects.’
    • ‘Drinking lots of fluids, especially water will help to reduce phlegm and mucus.’
    mucus, catarrh, mucous secretion
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    1. 1.1 (in medieval science and medicine) one of the four bodily humours, believed to be associated with a calm, stolid, or apathetic temperament.
      • ‘An example is the belief, originating in classical times, that disease is caused by an imbalance among four bodily humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile.’
      • ‘Our bodies were thought to be composed of blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile just as the world at large consisted of earth, air, fire, and water.’
      • ‘According to this theory, the most important determinants of health were the four humours found in the body: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile.’
      • ‘Illness, according to Galen, was caused by an imbalance of the body's four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile.’
      • ‘According to humoral theory, the body comprised of the four humours blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy; and pathological conditions are the result of humoral abnormalities.’
    2. 1.2 Calmness of temperament.
      ‘phlegm and determination carried them through many difficult situations’
      • ‘Immigrants living among people from the same country in a kind of ghetto therefore have no incentive to overcome their phlegm and finally learn German.’
      • ‘Phlegm (taken in a good sense) is the temperament of cold reflection and perseverance in the pursuit of one's end.’
      self-control, calmness, calm, coolness, composure, sangfroid, level-headedness
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Middle English fleem, fleume, from Old French fleume, from late Latin phlegma ‘clammy moisture (of the body)’, from Greek phlegma ‘inflammation’, from phlegein ‘to burn’. The spelling change in the 16th century was due to association with the Latin and Greek.