co·​chlea | \ ˈkō-klē-ə How to pronounce cochlea (audio) , ˈkä-klē- How to pronounce cochlea (audio) \
plural cochleas or cochleae\ ˈkō-​klē-​ˌē How to pronounce cochleae (audio) , -​ˌī , ˈkä-​klē-​ \

Definition of cochlea

: 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from cochlea

cochlear \ ˈkō-​klē-​ər How to pronounce cochlear (audio) , ˈkä-​ How to pronounce cochlear (audio) \ adjective

Examples of cochlea in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The action sends pressure waves through the liquid in the cochlea, the snail shell of the inner ear. Popular Science, "Hidden hearing loss is hitting people of all ages. Neuroscientists are still debating why.," 21 Jan. 2020 Some of the vibrations passed through the wood, through his jaw, through his temporal bone, and into his cochlea, bypassing his eardrum and middle ear. David Owen, The New Yorker, "What New York City Misses by Not Doing Hearing Tests on Students," 3 Nov. 2019 These sunglasses include a nub at the end of the arms that touch the back of your ear and send sound-carrying vibrations right past your eardrum and to your cochlea (inner ear). Cameron Martindell, WIRED, "Buying Guide: The Best Summer Cycling Gear," 13 June 2019 Your inner ear contains the cochlea, or the organ that actually allows you to hear, so this kind of decline in function can contribute to hearing issues. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "What Is Tinnitus?," 30 Jan. 2019 Within the cochlea, hair cells rest on an organic platform known as the basilar membrane that is floppy and wide on one end and narrow and taut on the other. Justin Chen, STAT, "Pulses of light restored hearing in gerbils. Could that lead to higher-tech cochlear implants?," 11 July 2018 Before a note of music is piped into your ears, Nuraphones analyze your hearing much the way infants’ ears are tested—with sonar-sensitive microphones and software that measure the vibrations from your cochlea. Matthew Kronsberg, WSJ, "Smart Headphones Tailor Made to Your Sense of Hearing," 20 June 2018 This band is nothing short of a national treasure, deftly able to smash politics, poetry, and power chords into a severe beating that feels like a warm hug (and proceeds to hang out on the couch of your cochlea for a few days afterward). Michael Andor Brodeur,, "The Weekender: Kennedys, Wallendas, and Nervous Eaters," 5 Apr. 2018 These vibrations make fluid inside your cochlea move, stimulating tiny hair cells that send nerve impulses to the brain via the auditory nerve. Amber Brenza, SELF, "Why Do My Earbuds Always Fall Out?," 4 Feb. 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of cochlea

1688, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cochlea

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cochlea

Time Traveler for cochlea

Time Traveler

The first known use of cochlea was in 1688

See more words from the same year

Statistics for cochlea

Cite this Entry

“Cochlea.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cochlea


How to pronounce cochlea (audio) How to pronounce cochlea (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cochlea

technical : the part of the inner ear that contains the endings of the nerve that carries information about sound to the brain


co·​chlea | \ ˈkō-klē-ə How to pronounce cochlea (audio) , ˈkä- \
plural cochleas or cochleae\ -​ˌē , -​ˌī \

Kids Definition of cochlea

: a coiled tube in the inner part of the ear that contains the endings of the nerve which carries information about sound to the brain


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 cochleae (audio) \

Medical Definition of cochlea

: 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

Other Words from cochlea

cochlear \ ˈkō-​klē-​ər, ˈkäk-​lē-​ər How to pronounce cochlear (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on cochlea Encyclopedia article about cochlea

Comments on cochlea

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!