mul·​ti·​cel·​lu·​lar ˌməl-tē-ˈsel-yə-lər How to pronounce multicellular (audio)
: having, made up of, or involving more than one and usually many cells especially of living matter
It is probable that with a few exceptions all the cells in a multicellular organism have the same genetic information encoded in the chains of nucleotide bases that make up their DNA.James E. Darnell, Jr.
A biofilm is a community of bacteria that use intercellular signaling to establish complex multicellular structures by coordinating gene expression and phenotypic changes.J. Christopher Post et al.
multicellularity noun
When is an organism multicellular? A generic answer … is that multicellularity results when two or more neighboring cells adhere, interact, and physiologically communicate. Karl J. Niklas

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Multicellular organisms are distinguished from the very primitive single-celled organisms—bacteria, algae, amoebas, etc. Even sponges, simple as they are, have specialized cell types such as digestive cells. In complex multicellular organisms, only the surface cells can exchange substances with the external environment, so the organisms have developed transport systems such as the circulatory system, in which the blood brings gases and nutrients to the cells and removes waste products from them.

Examples of multicellular in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Experts assumed, though, that this skill was unique to multicellular organisms, which had bodies made of many cells for which other cells could die. Quanta Magazine, 6 Mar. 2024 The appearance of multicellular organisms was a key evolutionary advance for life on Earth. Byelizabeth Pennisi,, 18 Oct. 2022 An embryo is one of the earliest stages of development of a multicellular organism. Annalisa Merelli, STAT, 22 Feb. 2024 While bacteria, viruses and many protists frequently exchange DNA, multicellular animals have protective barriers around their reproductive cells that generally prevent the uptake of foreign DNA. Saugat Bolakhe, Quanta Magazine, 3 Aug. 2023 Not long after first proposing the concept, researchers successfully harvested material from frog embryos to create their first multicellular biobots in 2020. Andrew Paul, Popular Science, 30 Nov. 2023 Manipulating molecular pathways in complex multicellular plants that take months to grow is much trickier than running experiments in microbes, where a scientist can make a genetic tweak and observe the consequences in a single sitting. WIRED, 30 Oct. 2023 In multicellular eukaryotes, steroids perform various functions; among other things, they’re used as signaling molecules, like estrogen and testosterone. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 9 June 2023 Environmental conditions were unsuitable for large multicellular organisms due to low oxygen levels. Eliot Bush, Scientific American, 7 Nov. 2023

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

Word History

First Known Use

1852, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of multicellular was in 1852

Dictionary Entries Near multicellular

Cite this Entry

“Multicellular.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: having or consisting of many cells

Medical Definition


mul·​ti·​cel·​lu·​lar -ˈsel-yə-lər How to pronounce multicellular (audio)
: having or consisting of many cells
multicellularity noun
plural multicellularities

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