as·​tro·​cyte ˈa-strə-ˌsīt How to pronounce astrocyte (audio)
: a large star-shaped cell of the glia
astrocytic adjective

Examples of astrocyte in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Because Volterra's team located them in structures associated with memory, the researchers plan to examine data from people with Alzheimer's disease to see whether, and how, their signaling astrocytes are altered. Simon Makin, Scientific American, 21 Nov. 2023 The winning entry: a rodent optic nerve head with astrocytes (yellow), contractile proteins (red), and retinal vasculature (green). Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 17 Oct. 2023 Some — but not all — astrocytes responded with glutamate. Laura Dattaro, Quanta Magazine, 18 Oct. 2023 Volterra believed that some astrocytes were capable of the latter. Laura Dattaro, Quanta Magazine, 18 Oct. 2023 The cells, known as astrocytes, have long been overlooked and have recently gained attention as more involved in mental processes than previously thought. Jackie Appel, Popular Mechanics, 21 Aug. 2023 In collaboration with Helena Parkington, a physiologist at Monash University, the team created brain tissues containing not only neurons, but also the astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia that help neurons stay healthy and form connections. WIRED, 3 Oct. 2023 In order to test how exactly the cells influence sleep need, the team focused in on astrocytes in an area of the brain called the basal forebrain, which is known for having a large impact on sleep. Jackie Appel, Popular Mechanics, 21 Aug. 2023 New research suggests the reason might be due to cells called astrocytes, which make up the majority of cells in the human central nervous system. Scott Lafee, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Aug. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'astrocyte.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from German Astrocyt (later Astrozyt), from astro- astro- + -cyt -cyte

Note: The term was probably introduced by the Hungarian histologist Mihály (Michael von) Lenhossék (1863-1937) in Der feinere Bau des Nervensystems im Lichte neuester Forschungen, 2. Auflage (Berlin, 1895), p. 180.

First Known Use

1896, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of astrocyte was in 1896

Dictionary Entries Near astrocyte

Cite this Entry

“Astrocyte.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2024.

Medical Definition


as·​tro·​cyte ˈas-trə-ˌsīt How to pronounce astrocyte (audio)
: a star-shaped cell
especially : any comparatively large much-branched glial cell
Glia outnumber neurons in the human brain by a factor of 10 to one, and astrocytes are the most abundant type of glial cell. Tina Hesman Saey, Science News
Astrocytes come in two main forms: fibrous astrocytes are found in the white matter and protoplasmic astrocytes in the gray matter. Harold Kimelberg and Michael Norenberg, Scientific American
astrocytic adjective
All gliomas, particularly the astrocytic neoplasms, are histologically, genetically, and thus therapeutically heterogeneous. Lisa M. DeAngelis, The New England Journal of Medicine

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