Prophylactic: A preventive measure. The word comes from the Greek for “an advance guard,” an apt term for a measure taken to fend off a disease or another unwanted consequence.

A prophylactic is a medication or a treatment designed and used to prevent a disease from occurring. For example, prophylactic antibiotics may be used after a bout of rheumatic fever to prevent the subsequent development of Sydenham’s chorea.

A prophylactic is also a drug or device, particularly a condom, for preventing pregnancy.

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