(historical) One of the four humors making up the body in ancient and mediaeval medicine; said to be cold and moist, and often identified with mucus. [from 13th c.]
1993, William Dalrymple, City of Djinns, HarperCollins 1993:
Each person's unique mixture of these substances determines his temperament: a predominance of blood gives a sanguine temperament; a predominance of phlegm makes one phlegmatic; yellow bile, bilious (or choleric); and black bile, melancholic.
Viscidmucus produced by the body, later especially mucus expelled from the bronchial passages by coughing. [from 14th c.]
2005, "Endangered Species?" Hannah Beech, Time, 14 Nov 2005:
"Even some members of the new bourgeoisie indulge in conspicuously boorish behavior, like hawking phlegm onto the pavement or picking their noses at business meetings."
1812, Humphry Davy, The Elements of Chemical Philosophy, Introduction, Part I. Vol. I, pp. 50-51:
The attempts made to analyse vegetable substances previous to 1720, merely produced their resolution into the supposed elements of the chemists of those days, namely, salts, Earths, phlegm, and sulphur.
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