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From Latin, from Ancient Greek πρό ‎(pró, before) + φύλαξις ‎(phúlaxis, a watching, guarding).



prophylactic ‎(plural prophylactics)

  1. A medicine which preserves or defends against disease; a preventive.
    1. (US, specifically) A prophylactic condom.
      • 1977, Human Life Center, International Review of Natural Family Planning, Human Life Center, St. John's University, page 2:
        It is not clear whether such education is to be directed to homosexuals (for whom prophylactics are not a contraceptive) or to heterosexuals as well (for whom prophylactics are a contraceptive).
      • 1994, Mary Louise Roberts, Civilization Without Sexes: Reconstructing Gender in Postwar France, 1917–1927, University of Chicago Press, page 96:
        Given the widespread use of coitus interruptus and male prophylactics as contraceptive practices in France []
      • 2000, Peter Parnell and John Irving, The Cider House Rules: Here in St. Cloud's, Dramatists Play Service, Inc., page 46:
        Some men put the prophylactic on just the tip of the penis: this is a mistake, because the prophylactic will come off.
  2. (figuratively) Any device or mechanism intended to prevent harmful consequences.
    The securities laws are a prophylactic against stock fraud.



prophylactic ‎(comparative more prophylactic, superlative most prophylactic)

  1. Serving to prevent or protect against an undesired effect, especially disease.


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