me·​la·​no·​cyte mə-ˈla-nə-ˌsīt How to pronounce melanocyte (audio)
plural melanocytes
: a cell (as of the skin, eye, or hair follicle) that produces melanin
an epidermal melanocyte
The choroid also contains numerous pigment-producing melanocytes that give it a brownish black appearance.John Hole
Melanocytes, the body's pigment cells, generally do good, not harm. They give our skin its natural color and, when struck by the sun, churn out additional pigment (or melanin) to darken and protect us.Claudia Kalb
The number of Americans diagnosed with melanoma, a cancer of the melanocytes, or pigmented cells of the skin, has increased steadily for decades.Gina Kolata
see melanosome compare melanophore

Examples of melanocyte in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Melanoma is a serious type of skin cancer that occurs when the cells that produce pigment to give skin its color (melanocytes), grow out of control, per the American Cancer Society. Caroline Kee, NBC News, 17 Oct. 2023 Melanin is a naturally occurring substance or pigment produced by special skin cells called melanocytes that are found in one's skin, hair follicles, eyes and other parts of the body. Daryl Austin, USA TODAY, 1 Sep. 2023 Tanning serves as the body’s protective response to skin damage from ultraviolet rays, stimulating melanocytes to produce melanin. Enrique Torchia, Fortune Well, 20 Aug. 2023 While most everyone has the same number of melanocytes, some people produce more melanin than others. Daryl Austin, USA TODAY, 1 Sep. 2023 Next, hormones trigger changes in the melanocytes, or pigment cells, that give your nipples their color. Kimberly A. Daly, Parents, 21 Aug. 2023 The melanocytes that give your hair its color are found in the hair follicle, where a strand of hair grows.1 Over time, melanocytes produce less and less melanin and eventually stop producing it entirely. Dr. Roshini Raj, Health, 27 July 2023 Although all skin has the same amount of melanocytes, darker skin has more active melanin cells which can cause hyperpigmentation. India Espy-Jones, Essence, 2 Aug. 2023 When skin is exposed to UV light, the body produces melanin, a dark pigment made by skin cells called melanocytes. Claire Gillespie, Health, 28 July 2023 See More

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

Word History


melano- + -cyte

First Known Use

circa 1890, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of melanocyte was circa 1890

Dictionary Entries Near melanocyte

Cite this Entry

“Melanocyte.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


me·​la·​no·​cyte mə-ˈlan-ə-ˌsīt How to pronounce melanocyte (audio)
: a body cell (as in the skin) that produces or contains melanin

Medical Definition


me·​la·​no·​cyte mə-ˈlan-ə-ˌsīt How to pronounce melanocyte (audio) ˈmel-ə-nō- How to pronounce melanocyte (audio)
: a cell (as of the skin, eye, or hair follicle) that produces melanin see melansome compare melanophore

More from Merriam-Webster on melanocyte

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