mel·​a·​nin | \ ˈme-lə-nən How to pronounce melanin (audio) \

Definition of melanin

: any of various black, dark brown, reddish-brown, or yellow pigments of animal or plant structures (such as skin or hair)

Examples of melanin in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The 26-year-old Star and Grown-ish actor has signed on as an ambassador for the drugstore mainstay, which has been catering to the needs of melanin-rich people since its inception. Jihan Forbes, Allure, "Ryan Destiny Is the New Face of Black Opal, and Oh, What a Face," 26 Jan. 2021 Again, the melanin is severely lacking or straight up missing. Kathleen Newman-bremang,, "Jingle Jangle Is A Reminder That The Best Christmas Movies Are Black," 11 Dec. 2020 Hot pinks, fiery corals, berry, and wine-toned blushes work best for the melanin-rich. Nykia Spradley, Allure, "17 Gorgeous Blushes That Show Up and Show Out On Deeper Skin Tones," 21 Dec. 2020 Among birds, the specific melanin pigments in darker feathers seem to resist bacterial infestation, an advantage in the Petri dish of the tropics. Sam Kean, Science | AAAS, "Will climate change make animals darker—or lighter?," 30 Dec. 2020 For individuals with darker skin tones, excess pigment production leading to hyperpigmentation can occur quite easily because of the higher concentration of melanin within the skin. Jasmine Grant, Essence, "A Black Dermatologist Explains How To Clear Up Those Stubborn Dark Spots," 11 Dec. 2020 Kim Sydnor, dean of Morgan’s School of Community Health and Policy, said representation is not just about having people of a particular melanin involved, but having different representation of thought, backgrounds and mindsets. Yvonne Wenger,, "UMBC president: Clinical testing is ‘for the greater good’ despite some concerns in the Black community," 4 Dec. 2020 When our skin is exposed to the sun's rays, melanocytes are naturally stimulated to produce more melanin in an effort to protect the skin from burning. Julie Ricevuto, Allure, "The Science of Beauty: The Complete Guide to Treating Hyperpigmentation," 22 Oct. 2020 Kissi’s work is meticulously focused on the inner beauty and the origin of his subjects, lending great detail to colors, and glorifying melanin. Jamila Stewart, Essence, "Joshua Kissi Is Shifting The Narrative Of How Black Stories Are Shared With 'Hour Stories'," 22 June 2020

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

1843, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for melanin

Greek melan-, stem of mélās "black, dark" + -in entry 1, after Italian melaina — more at melano-

Note: The term melaina was introduced in a study of squid ink by the Italian chemist Bartolomeo Bizio (1791-1862), "Ricerche chimiche sovra l'inchiostro della Seppia," Giornale di fisica, chimica, storia naturale, medicina ed arte, decade 2, tomo 8 (1825), p. 105. Bizio formed the word from Greek mélās "black" and aeí "always" because the substance he had isolated retained its color no matter what acid or other potent chemical it was exposed to ("Questo principio animal particolarissimo il fu chiamato così dal greco mélas, nero, ed aeì sempre, che vale materia sempre nera, conciossachè gli acidi, il cloro, e tutto che vi è di più potente, non bastano a mutarlo di colore.")

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The first known use of melanin was in 1843

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Last Updated

12 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Melanin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for melanin



English Language Learners Definition of melanin

: a dark brown or black substance that is a natural part of people's skin, hair, and eyes


mel·​a·​nin | \ ˈmel-ə-nən How to pronounce melanin (audio) \

Medical Definition of melanin

: any of various black, dark brown, reddish brown, or yellow pigments of animal or plant structures (as skin, hair, the choroid, or a raw potato when exposed to air) especially : any of numerous animal pigments that are essentially polymeric derivatives of indole formed by enzymatic modification of tyrosine

More from Merriam-Webster on melanin

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

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