Definition of whitlow in US English:



  • An abscess in the soft tissue near a fingernail or toenail.

    • ‘I have a whitlow on the end of my finger, how should I treat it?’
    • ‘Another causes whitlows on fingers, feet, knees and shoulders.’
    • ‘I should have remembered, as a dental colleague has just reminded me, what a problem herpetic whitlows used to be in our dental undergraduates before they were made to wear gloves.’
    • ‘Complications in herpetic whitlow include bacterial infection of the sore and possible spread of the virus.’
    • ‘Herpetic whitlow usually is self-limited and resolves in two to three weeks.’
    • ‘Unfortunately due a stabbing incident involving a ‘safety’ pin I am now the proud owner of a whitlow on the said finger, which is slowing my blogging down.’
    • ‘Herpetic whitlow is an HSV infection of the fingers and toes and may represent a primary infection or a secondary recurrence of type 1 or 2 HSV infection.’
    • ‘Herpetic whitlow results from autoinoculation of type 1 or type 2 herpes simplex virus into broken skin.’
    • ‘At first symptoms, just immerse affected part in hot water about 3 times daily and in a day or two the whitlow goes away.’
    • ‘Nursery personnel with an active herpetic whitlow should not have direct care of neonates.’
    boil, blister, sore, abscess, pustule, pimple, spot, wart, papule, wen, canker
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (also as whitflaw, -flow), apparently from white + flaw in the sense ‘crack’, but perhaps related to Dutch fijt ‘whitlow’.