plural cochleas or cochleae ˈkō-klē-ˌē How to pronounce cochlea (audio)
: a hollow tube in the inner ear of higher vertebrates that is usually coiled like a snail shell and contains the sensory organ of hearing see ear illustration
cochlear adjective

Examples of cochlea in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Tinnitus is caused by noise damage to the sensory cells in the inner ear, or cochlea. IEEE Spectrum, 19 Jan. 2011 For a guy who lives to obliterate the cochlea, Thurston has also never been the madman many of his punk compatriots were. Jonathan Rowe, SPIN, 23 Jan. 2024 After our ears hear a song snippet, it gets converted into neuronal activity by our cochlea, the spiral cavity of the inner ear. IEEE Spectrum, 18 Aug. 2023 Sound sets off a wave of fluid in the cochlea and stimulates the hair cells to transmit signals to the brain. Gina Kolata, New York Times, 23 Jan. 2024 The problem is that our cochlea have roughly 15,000 of these cells, each dedicated to tuning particular frequencies. Annalee Newitz, Rolling Stone, 28 June 2023 The implants somewhat alter the cochlea, which could hamper the interpretation of gene therapy results. Gina Kolata, New York Times, 23 Jan. 2024 Inside the cochlea are hair cells, each sprouting microscopic bristles that vibrate in response to sound waves. Jeffrey Kluger, Discover Magazine, 11 Nov. 2019 Then, sound travels into the bony labyrinth of the ear and to the cochlea. Sofia Quaglia, Discover Magazine, 27 Dec. 2023

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

Word History


New Latin, from Latin, snail, snail shell, from Greek kochlias, from kochlos snail; probably akin to Greek konchē mussel

First Known Use

1688, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cochlea was in 1688

Dictionary Entries Near cochlea

Cite this Entry

“Cochlea.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


plural cochleas or cochleae -klē-ˌē How to pronounce cochlea (audio)
: a hollow tube of the inner ear of higher vertebrates that is usually coiled like a snail shell and contains the endings of the nerve which carries information about sound to the brain

Medical Definition


co·​chle·​a ˈkō-klē-ə How to pronounce cochlea (audio) ˈkäk-lē- How to pronounce cochlea (audio)
plural cochleas or cochleae ˈkō-klē-ˌē, ˈkäk-lē-ˌē, -ˌī How to pronounce cochlea (audio)
: a division of the bony labyrinth of the inner ear coiled into the form of a snail shell and consisting of a spiral canal in the petrous part of the temporal bone in which lies a smaller membranous spiral passage that communicates with the saccule at the base of the spiral, ends blindly near its apex, and contains the organ of Corti

More from Merriam-Webster on cochlea

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