\ˈsel \

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

b : cell phone

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

Each cell tower records those pings and who sent them, storing the information in databases maintained by each telecommunications company. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Supreme Court Cares About Your Digital Privacy," 22 June 2018 Such records indicate where a cellphone establishes connections with a specific cell tower and give a fair representation of the vicinity of the user. Robert Barnes, Anchorage Daily News, "Supreme Court rules that a warrant is needed for government to access cell tower records," 22 June 2018 Currently, 911 centers use cell tower information from carriers. Natalie Dreier, ajc, "Apple to offer 911 location feature in iOS12 update," 18 June 2018 Police can often link a person’s location through cell phone triangulation, which refers to positioning a phone’s location to a nearby cell tower at a particular place and time. Michael Mccann, SI.com, "Could Kellen Winslow Jr.'s Attorneys Use Football-Induced Brain Injury as Defense for Alleged Crimes?," 16 June 2018 In addition to buying new radios, the funding would also go toward installing new cell towers on the city’s southeast side, where the city’s never had them before, Kronenberg said. Dominic Fracassa, San Francisco Chronicle, "SF 911 call center to get added $8 million to hire dispatchers," 30 May 2018 Area police and fire departments told the village board a cell tower was necessary to avoid dropped calls and lapses in service that could affect their response to emergencies. Michelle Mullins, Daily Southtown, "Homer Glen puts hold on permits for new cell towers after flap over Parker Road structure," 10 May 2018 Artificial meat, whether made from plants or grown from animal cells in vats, is getting cheaper and more realistic, and could be much more sustainable than livestock farming. The Economist, "The future of food, served up right here in augmented reality," 7 July 2018 Sprint is introducing two new pricing plans for its cell service, including an Unlimited Plus plan that will come bundled with a subscription to Tidal's music streaming service, Billboard has learned. Dan Rys, Billboard, "Sprint Introducing New 'Unlimited Plus' Plans With Tidal Music Streaming Subscription Bundle," 12 July 2018

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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Phrases Related to cell

padded cell

Statistics for cell

Last Updated

18 Oct 2018

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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 \

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 \

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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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 reject or criticize sharply

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