melanism

noun

mel·​a·​nism ˈme-lə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce melanism (audio)
1
: an increased amount of black or nearly black pigmentation (as of skin, feathers, or hair) of an individual or kind of organism compare industrial melanism
2
: intense human pigmentation of the skin, eyes, and hair
melanistic adjective

Examples of melanism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web As pollution levels declined due to regulation, the melanism in these creatures reversed. Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 Mar. 2023 With the black variety, a form of melanism increases the dark pigment in their fur. Brielle Fischman, Discover Magazine, 9 Feb. 2021 To determine the origins of squirrel melanism, or dark coloration, McRobie and colleagues from Cambridge University and the Virginia Museum of Natural History extracted DNA from gray and fox squirrel specimens found in North America. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, 16 Aug. 2019 But why melanism evolved in cats is a trickier question. Sergio Pitamitz, National Geographic, 22 Mar. 2017 The animal is melanistic—its genes carry a mutation that creates more dark pigment than light pigment, according to Eduardo Eizirik, a biologist and cat-melanism expert at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. Sergio Pitamitz, National Geographic, 22 Mar. 2017

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

Word History

Etymology

borrowed from French mélanisme, from Greek melan-, stem of mélās "black, dark" + French -isme -ism, on the model of albinisme albinism — more at melano-

Note: French mélanisme appears in the 1820's, perhaps earliest in De l'organisation des animaux, ou Principes d'anatomie comparée, tome premier (Paris, 1822), by the zoologist Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville (1777-1850).

First Known Use

1843, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of melanism was in 1843

Dictionary Entries Near melanism

Cite this Entry

“Melanism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/melanism. Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

melanism

noun
mel·​a·​nism ˈmel-ə-ˌniz-əm How to pronounce melanism (audio)
: an exceptionally dark coloring (as of skin, feathers, or hair) of an individual or kind of living thing

Medical Definition

melanism

noun
mel·​a·​nism ˈmel-ə-ˌniz-əm How to pronounce melanism (audio)
1
: an increased amount of black or nearly black pigmentation (as of skin, feathers, or hair) of an individual or kind of organism
2
: intense human pigmentation in skin, eyes, and hair
melanistic adjective
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