ne·​o·​te·​ny | \ nē-ˈä-tə-nē How to pronounce neoteny (audio) \

Definition of neoteny

1 : retention of some larval or immature characters in adulthood
2 : attainment of sexual maturity during the larval stage

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from neoteny

neotenic \ ˌnē-​ə-​ˈte-​nik How to pronounce neotenic (audio) \ adjective

Examples of neoteny in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Humans are hopelessly drawn to neoteny—the kissable, squishable, button-nosed, big-eyed, irresistibility of babies—and your parents will generally have your back. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, "Dear Royal Baby: Being the Youngest Child Comes With Some Surprising Advantages," 23 Apr. 2018

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

First Known Use of neoteny

1901, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for neoteny

borrowed from German Neotenie, from Greek néos "young" + -o- -o- + teínein "to stretch, extend" + German -ie -y entry 2 — more at new entry 1, thin entry 1

Note: The word Neotenie was introduced by the German biologist Julius Kollmann (1834-1918) in "Das Ueberwintern von europäischen Frosch- und Tritonlarven und die Umwandlung des mexikanischen Axolotl," Verhandlungen der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Basel, 7. Theil, 2. Heft (1884), p. 391. In explaining the coinage, Kollmann inaccurately glossed Greek teínein as "halten, hinhalten" ("hold, hold/put off"), perhaps through confusion with Latin tenēre "to hold."

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about neoteny

Statistics for neoteny

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for neoteny

The first known use of neoteny was in 1901

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on neoteny Encyclopedia article about neoteny

Comments on neoteny

What made you want to look up neoteny? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!