\ 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

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

Like, why are those two people apparently hooking up in a padded cell? Jessie Militare, Marie Claire, "The Future of Women-Friendly Erotica Is Audio Porn, According to This App," 26 Dec. 2018 Elsharkawi was taken to a holding cell and was eventually brought before a supervisor named Officer Stevenson. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Man sues feds after being detained for refusing to unlock his phone at airport," 18 Dec. 2018 The relevant comparison is not between, say, schooling and a prison cell. Jason L. Riley, WSJ, "Will the Senate Surrender on Criminal Justice?," 4 Dec. 2018 Acosta, who helped Epstein serve his time in an office rather than a prison cell — and measure it in months, not years — oversees Trump’s Labor Department, which is responsible for, among other things, preventing human trafficking. Jane Coaston, Vox, "Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender who is friends with Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, explained," 3 Dec. 2018 Saying her name has been a vital source of strength in the three years that Sandra Bland’s family has been trying to figure out what happened to the 28-year-old in a Texas jail cell. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "Sandra Bland's Family Talks Fighting for the Complete Truth in New "Say Her Name" Documentary," 3 Dec. 2018 Rick has Negan in a jail cell as a show of restraint and civility — a model for how crimes against the community should be dealt with going forward. Nick Statt, The Verge, "The Walking Dead is finally tackling morality like it’s smarter than a comic book," 15 Oct. 2018 Basis by Elysium Health, for example, is a supplement that's shown to increase NAD+ levels, a critical coenzyme in every cell in our bodies. Markham Heid, Good Housekeeping, "8 Easy Tricks for a Much Happier Day," 6 Aug. 2018 Beyond the standard features, ModVans also works with clients on upgrades like four-wheel drive, a 4G LTE cell booster, an outdoor shower, and a third row of seats. Megan Barber, Curbed, "Camper van with removable components can sleep a family," 21 Nov. 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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Last Updated

11 Jan 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 \

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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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

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