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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes, which live in the base layer of our epidermis (the outermost layer of our skin). Rebecca Dancer, Allure, 13 Mar. 2020 The differentiated melanocytes in the hair bulb continued to pump out color. Popular Science, 27 Jan. 2020 In each follicle of human hair are melanocyte stem cells (MeSCs), which differentiate into specialized cells called melanocytes. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 Jan. 2020 Melanoma is a type of cancer that starts in melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells in the skin. Maggie O'neill,, 6 Nov. 2019 Error 0: Melanoma comes from melanocytes, which are the skin cells that make melanin pigment (that produces skin color), Boulos said. Tracy Maness, Houston Chronicle, 7 Jan. 2020 Skin color is determined by concentration of cells called melanocytes. Emily Matchar, Smithsonian, 18 Nov. 2019 Ultraviolet light prompts melanocytes to churn out more melanin, which is why your melasma may get worse in the summer and better in the winter. Korin Miller, SELF, 27 Aug. 2018 Melanosomes move from the melanocytes to different cells, like the epidermis, and deposit the pigments that give us the color of our skin, hair, and eyes. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, 20 Aug. 2019 See More

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

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 9 Dec. 2022.

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

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