\ ˈsel How to pronounce cell (audio) \

Definition of cell

1 : a small religious house dependent on a monastery or convent
2a : 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
5a(1) : a receptacle containing electrodes and an electrolyte either for generating electricity by chemical action or for use in electrolysis
(2) : fuel cell
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
9a : 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

cell 4 (schematic): 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

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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

Many of those locked up there for resisting the occupation did not survive its torture cells. The Economist, "A row about medals reveals disputes about East Timor’s history," 12 Sep. 2019 Instead, a sheriff’s lieutenant ordered deputies to chain Madrigal to a cell door and he was left unattended for 10 minutes, the family said. Sarah Ravani, SFChronicle.com, "Family files claim against Fremont, Alameda County in death of man in custody," 9 Sep. 2019 A month after Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide in a Manhattan jail cell, the number of people infected by his amorality and deceit remains unknown. STAT, "A view from inside MIT: The Epstein scandal is a teachable moment for colleges and universities," 9 Sep. 2019 The Mobile County Commission agreed during an emergency meeting Tuesday morning to spend nearly $700,000 replacing faulty locks in the Metro Jail after it was discovered inmates were able to open some cell doors. Christopher Harress | Charress@al.com, al, "Faulty cell locks in Mobile Metro Jail will take 300 days to replace and cost nearly $700,000," 3 Sep. 2019 Bolles later learned that the cellmate had also lit the mattresses on fire in his Tempe jail cell. AZCentral.com, "Don Bolles files: The case of Skippy Brazil, the drug informant who was set on fire," 28 Aug. 2019 By the time jail staff opened her cell door, Layleen’s body was lifeless and cold. Breanna Edwards, Essence, "Layleen Cubilette-Polanco Died From Seizure While Jailed At Rikers Island," 31 July 2019 An inmate who had returned from solitary confinement was kicking at his cell door and yelling at corrections officers. Ryan Faircloth, Twin Cities, "Unarmed and outnumbered, MN corrections officers use crisis intervention to defuse tense encounters," 5 July 2019 The police holding cells seen by The New York Times had some 70 men stuffed into a space more suited to 10. New York Times, "Iraq Faces a New Adversary: Crystal Meth," 14 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cell.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cell

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

History and Etymology for cell

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

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Statistics for cell

Last Updated

18 Oct 2019

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Time Traveler for cell

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

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More Definitions for cell



English Language Learners Definition of cell

: a room in a prison, jail, etc., where prisoners live or are kept
: a small room that one person (such as a monk or a nun) lives in
: any one of the very small parts that together form all living things


\ ˈsel How to pronounce cell (audio) \

Kids Definition of cell

1 : a very small room (as in a prison or a monastery)
2 : the basic structural unit of living things that is made up of cytoplasm enclosed by a membrane and that typically includes a nucleus and other smaller parts (as mitochondria or chloroplasts) which perform specific functions necessary for life
3 : a small enclosed part or division (as in a honeycomb)
4 : a container with substances which can produce an electric current by chemical action
5 : a device that converts light (as sunlight) that falls on it into electrical energy that is used as a power source

Other Words from cell

celled \ ˈseld \ adjective single-celled


\ ˈsel How to pronounce cell (audio) \

Medical Definition of cell

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on cell

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cell

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cell

Spanish Central: Translation of cell

Nglish: Translation of cell for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cell for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about cell

Comments on cell

What made you want to look up cell? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to fake an opponent out of position

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