neu·ron | \ˈnü-ˌrän, ˈnyü-;ˈnu̇r-ˌän, ˈnyu̇r- \

Definition of neuron 

: a grayish or reddish granular cell that is the fundamental functional unit of nervous tissue transmitting and receiving nerve impulses and having cytoplasmic processes which are highly differentiated frequently as multiple dendrites or usually as solitary axons which conduct impulses to and away from the cell body : nerve cell sense 1

Illustration of neuron

Illustration of neuron

neuron: 1 cell body, 2 dendrite, 3 axon, 4 nerve ending

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Other Words from neuron

neuronal \ˈnu̇r-ə-nᵊl, ˈnyu̇r-; nu̇-ˈrō-nᵊl, nyu̇- \ or less commonly neuronic \nu̇-ˈrä-nik, nyu̇- \ adjective

Examples of neuron in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Nevertheless, this is a provocative study that links early experience with the genetic structure of neurons, and that highlights the remarkable plasticity and adaptability of the brain. Robert Martone, Scientific American, "Early Life Experience: It’s in Your DNA," 10 July 2018 More fascinating still: When the researchers zapped this patch of neurons via ECoG, their test subjects' larynx muscles contracted in response. Robbie Gonzalez, WIRED, "One Sentence With 7 Meanings Unlocks a Mystery of Human Speech," 28 June 2018 Cajal wrote of neurons named for the Czech biologist Jan Purkinje. Cate Mcquaid,, "A different sort of scan in ‘The Beautiful Brain’," 6 June 2018 Daily circadian rhythm is controlled by a collection of neurons in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. Mark Lieber, CNN, "Maintaining a daily rhythm is important for mental health, study suggests," 15 May 2018 Opioids block pain by fitting into specialized receptors on the surface of neurons. Jonathon Keats, Discover Magazine, "Building a Better Painkiller," 11 May 2018 These algorithms are really series of mathematical operations, and each operation represents a neuron. Cade Metz, New York Times, "Google Researchers Are Learning How Machines Learn," 6 Mar. 2018 The intention is that the cells could be pulled out of storage when needed, multiplied, and transformed into heart cells or neurons or other specialized cells to create a personalized treatment for the customer. Andrew Joseph, STAT, "Stem cell bank opens with backing from leading scientists. Is it worth the money?," 31 May 2018 These pulses, and those from other pressure sensor/ring oscillator combos, are fed into a third device called a synaptic transistor, which sends out a series of electrical pulses in patterns that match those produced by biological neurons. Robert F. Service, Science | AAAS, "New artificial nerves could transform prosthetics," 31 May 2018

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

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First Known Use of neuron

1891, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for neuron

borrowed from German Neuron, borrowed from Greek neûron "sinew, tendon, nerve" — more at nerve entry 1

Note: Term introduced by the German anatomist Heinrich Wilhelm Waldeyer (Heinrich Wilhelm Gottfried von Waldeyer-Hartz, 1836-1921) in "Ueber einige neuere Forschungen im Gebiete der Anatomie der Centralnervensystems," Berliner klinische Wochenschrift, 28. Jahrgang, no. 28, July 13, 1891, p. 691: "Somit besteht ein Nervenelement (eine 'Nerveneinheit' oder 'Neuron', wie ich es zu nennen vorschlagen möchte), den genannten Forschungsergebnissen … zufolge, aus nachstehenden Stücken: a) einer Nervenzelle, b) dem Nervenfortsatze, c) dessen Collateralen und d) dem Endbäumchen." - "Therefore, in accordance with the cited research results, a nerve element (a 'nerve unit' or 'neuron,' as I would like to suggest as a name), consists of the following parts: a) a nerve cell, b) the nerve process [= axon], c) its collaterals and d) the end tree [= axon terminals]." Waldeyer apparently intended -on to be taken as a suffix, indicating a unit, rather than the Greek neuter singular inflectional ending, as he utilized Neuronen as the plural in the same article. Cf. French neurone and the English variant neurone.

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Last Updated

19 Oct 2018

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The first known use of neuron was in 1891

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English Language Learners Definition of neuron

medical : a cell that carries messages between the brain and other parts of the body and that is the basic unit of the nervous system


neu·ron | \ˈnü-ˌrän, ˈnyü-\

Kids Definition of neuron


neu·ron | \ˈn(y)ü-ˌrän, ˈn(y)u̇(ə)r-ˌän \
variants: also neurone \-ˌrōn, -ˌōn \

Medical Definition of neuron 

: one of the cells that constitute nervous tissue, that have the property of transmitting and receiving nerve impulses, and that are composed of somewhat reddish or grayish protoplasm with a large nucleus containing a conspicuous nucleolus, irregular cytoplasmic granules, and cytoplasmic processes which are highly differentiated frequently as multiple dendrites or usually as solitary axons and which conduct impulses toward and away from the cell body : nerve cell sense 1

Other Words from neuron

neuronal \ˈn(y)u̇r-ən-ᵊl, n(y)u̇-ˈrōn-ᵊl \ also neuronic \n(y)u̇-ˈrän-ik \ adjective

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Comments on neuron

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to reject or criticize sharply

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