cell

noun

1
: a small religious house dependent on a monastery or convent
2
a
: a one-room dwelling occupied by a solitary person (such as a hermit)
b
: a single room (as in a convent or prison) usually for one person
3
: a small compartment, cavity, or bounded space: such as
a
: one of the compartments of a honeycomb
b
: a membranous area bounded by veins in the wing of an insect
4
: a small usually microscopic mass of protoplasm bounded externally by a semipermeable membrane, usually including one or more nuclei and various other organelles with their products, capable alone or interacting with other cells of performing all the fundamental functions of life, and forming the smallest structural unit of living matter capable of functioning independently
5
a(1)
: a receptacle containing electrodes and an electrolyte either for generating electricity by chemical action or for use in electrolysis
(2)
b
: a single unit in a device for converting radiant energy into electrical energy or for varying the intensity of an electrical current in accordance with radiation (see radiation sense 1)
6
: a unit in a statistical array (see array entry 2 sense 5) (such as a spreadsheet) formed by the intersection of a column and a row
7
: a basic and usually small unit of an organization or movement
terrorist cells
8
: a portion of the atmosphere that behaves as a unit
a storm cell
9
a
: any of the small sections of a geographic area of a cellular (see cellular entry 1 sense 3) telephone system

Illustration of cell

Illustration of cell
  • A plant
  • B animal
  • 1 cell wall
  • 2 middle lamella
  • 3 plasma membrane
  • 4 mitochondrion
  • 5 vacuole
  • 6 Golgi apparatus
  • 7 cytoplasm
  • 8 nuclear membrane
  • 9 nucleolus
  • 10 nucleus
  • 11 chromatin
  • 12 endoplasmic reticulum with associated ribosomes
  • 13 chloroplast
  • 14 centriole
  • 15 lysosome

Examples of cell in a Sentence

The suspect was in the police station's holding cell overnight. his mission was to locate and infiltrate the terrorist cell that was believed to be hiding in the city
Recent Examples on the Web As light dims, our eyes transition from photopic vision, associated with the retina's cone cells that deliver full colors and fine detail, toward scotopic night vision that relies on rod cells to detect objects in low light. Bill Chappell, NPR, 6 Apr. 2024 Magic Johnson answered his cell on the first ring and in a nanosecond his excitement was at a fever pitch. Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times, 6 Apr. 2024 While Wisconsin isn't on the list of travel destinations to view the full solar eclipse, cell service still could affected by the eclipse. Alex Groth, Journal Sentinel, 5 Apr. 2024 Generally, the water within the plant’s cells freeze, and that ice can injure cell membranes, ultimately killing the plant. Karl Schneider, The Indianapolis Star, 5 Apr. 2024 Al-Halabi’s lawyers showed him the letter in his cell and pressed him for an explanation. Tamara Audi, New York Times, 4 Apr. 2024 Will the 2024 solar eclipse impact cell service? Possibly. Marina Johnson, The Courier-Journal, 1 Apr. 2024 During autophagy, your cells break down and get rid of irregular or old proteins and substances in cellular fluid. Cynthia Sass, Mph, Health, 24 Mar. 2024 But if there’s a risk that some cells may remain, chemotherapy is a way to kill them off, thus reducing the risk of a recurrence. Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times, 23 Mar. 2024

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

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Old English, religious house and Anglo-French celle hermit's cell, from Latin cella small room; akin to Latin celare to conceal — more at hell

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of cell was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near cell

Cite this Entry

“Cell.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cell. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

cell

noun
1
: a very small room (as in a convent or prison) usually for one person
2
: a small compartment, cavity, or bounded space
the cells in a honeycomb often contain honey
3
: one of the tiny units that are the basic building blocks of living things, that carry on the basic functions of life either alone or in groups, and that include a nucleus and are surrounded by a membrane
4
a
: a container (as a jar) with electrodes and an electrolyte either for generating electricity by chemical action or for use in electrolysis
b
: a single unit in a device for changing radiant energy into electrical energy
5
celled
ˈseld
adjective

Medical Definition

cell

noun
1
: a small compartment or bounded space
2
: a small usually microscopic mass of protoplasm bounded externally by a semipermeable membrane, usually including one or more nuclei and various nonliving products, capable alone or interacting with other cells of performing all the fundamental functions of life, and forming the smallest structural unit of living matter capable of functioning independently

More from Merriam-Webster on cell

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