ma·​trix | \ˈmā-triks \
plural matrices\ˈmā-​trə-​ˌsēz, ˈma-​ \ or matrixes\ˈmā-​trik-​səz \

Definition of matrix 

1 : something within or from which something else originates, develops, or takes form an atmosphere of understanding and friendliness that is the matrix of peace

2a : a mold from which a relief (see relief entry 1 sense 6) surface (such as a piece of type) is made

b : die sense 3a(1)

c : an engraved or inscribed die (see die entry 2 sense 3) or stamp

d : an electroformed impression of a phonograph record used for mass-producing duplicates of the original

3a : the natural material (such as soil or rock) in which something (such as a fossil or crystal) is embedded

b : material in which something is enclosed or embedded (as for protection or study)

4a : the extracellular substance in which tissue cells (as of connective tissue) are embedded

b : the thickened epithelium at the base of a fingernail or toenail from which new nail substance develops

5a : a rectangular array (see array entry 2 sense 5) of mathematical elements (such as the coefficients (see coefficient sense 1) of simultaneous (see simultaneous sense 2) linear equations) that can be combined to form sums and products with similar arrays having an appropriate number of rows and columns

b : something resembling a mathematical matrix especially in rectangular arrangement of elements into rows and columns

c : an array of circuit elements (such as diodes and transistors) for performing a specific function

6 : a main (see main entry 2 sense 5) clause that contains a subordinate (see subordinate entry 1) clause

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

In ancient Rome, a matrix was a female animal kept for breeding, or a plant (sometimes called a "parent plant" or "mother plant") whose seeds were used for producing other plants. In English the word has taken on many related meanings. Mathematicians use it for a rectangular organization of numbers or symbols that can be used to make various calculations; geologists use it for the soil or rock in which a fossil is discovered, like a baby in the womb. And matrix was a good choice as the name of the reality in which all humans find themselves living in a famous series of science-fiction films.

Examples of matrix in a Sentence

the complex social matrix in which people live their lives The wires all crossed each other and formed a matrix. a matrix used for making knives
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The researchers basically created a matrix that allows the variety of exports to be summed. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Physicists’ simple spanks economists’ complex in economic growth forecasts," 2 Aug. 2018 Salander injects into Larsson’s matrix of morals some of the anarchy of children’s literature, and that was by design. Alice Bolin, Longreads, "The Daughter as Detective," 26 June 2018 On the other hand, there's a lot of Trump pardons that don't fit into the - - into the matrix. Fox News, "Turley: Trump did not obstruct justice by firing James Comey," 1 June 2018 Members of the Thai navy SEALs and foreign divers squeezed through miles of tunnels, risking their lives to find and carry the young players through an underwater matrix that daunted the British specialists brought in to help. Hannah Beech, The Seattle Times, "For some Thai soccer-team members, cave ordeal was only their latest test," 10 July 2018 The bags, made from nylon-fiber matrix out of a factory in Massachusetts, cover all fronts; from the all-day tote to the stylish crossbody, to the of-the-moment bucket bag, and are $55 to $325. Flora Tsapovsky, San Francisco Chronicle, "Style Radar: Filbert’s vegan leather pouches," 23 Apr. 2018 Not only that, but the mineral matrix of Hypatia also contains a significant amount of interstellar dust not generally seen in the rocky stuff of the solar system. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Incredible 'Hypatia' Stone Contains Compounds Not Found in the Solar System," 10 Jan. 2018 Then, Brava's staff of seven chefs looked at those toast pics—uncooked bread, cooked toast, burned toast—and helped put together a kind of matrix for what an ideal piece of toast looks like. Lauren Goode, WIRED, "Brava Hopes to Heat Up the 'Smart Kitchen' With a $995 Oven," 10 July 2018 The lives and 50-year love affair of feminist educators Mary Woolley and Jeannette Marks provide the matrix for Bryna Turner’s comedy, set during the battle for women’s suffrage in the United States. Kerry Reid,, "Summer theater 2018: Our top 25 shows to see," 23 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'matrix.' 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 matrix

1555, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for matrix

Latin, female animal used for breeding, parent plant, from matr-, mater

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about matrix

Statistics for matrix

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for matrix

The first known use of matrix was in 1555

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for matrix



English Language Learners Definition of matrix

: something (such as a situation or a set of conditions) in which something else develops or forms

: something shaped like a pattern of lines and spaces

: a container that can be filled with a material (such as very hot metal) to give the material a new shape


ma·​trix | \ˈmā-triks \
plural matrices\ˈmā-​trə-​ˌsēz also ˈma-​ \ or matrixes

Medical Definition of matrix 

1a : the extracellular substance in which tissue cells (as of connective tissue) are embedded mineralization of bone matrix

b : the thickened epithelium at the base of a fingernail or toenail from which new nail substance develops

called also nail bed, nail matrix

2 : something (as a surrounding or pervading substance or element) within which something else originates or takes form or develops

3 : a mass by which something is enclosed or in which something is embedded membrane-bound organelles suspended in the cytoplasmic matrix chromatin fibers attach to the nuclear matrix

4a : a strip or band placed so as to serve as a retaining outer wall of a tooth in filling a cavity

b : a metal or porcelain pattern in which an inlay is cast or fused

5 : the substrate on or within which a fungus grows

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on matrix

Spanish Central: Translation of matrix

Nglish: Translation of matrix for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of matrix for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about matrix

Comments on matrix

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


a nest or breeding place

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!