par·ti·cle | \ ˈpär-ti-kəl \

Definition of particle 

1a : a minute quantity or fragment

b : a relatively small or the smallest discrete portion or amount of something

2 archaic : a clause or article of a composition or document

3 : any of the basic units of matter and energy (such as a molecule, atom, proton, electron, or photon)

4 : a unit of speech expressing some general aspect of meaning or some connective or limiting relation and including the articles, most prepositions and conjunctions, and some interjections and adverbs the particle up has a perfective meaning in phrases such as beat up and cut up

5 : a small eucharistic wafer distributed to a Roman Catholic layman at Communion

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Examples of particle in a Sentence

There is not a particle of evidence to support their claim. There is not a particle of truth in what he said. The phrasal verb “look up” consists of the verb “look” and the adverbial particle “up.”
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Recent Examples on the Web

If astronomers are right, a ghostly particle that lit up an instrumented swathe of ice beneath the South Pole on 22 September last year was a messenger from a distant galaxy. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Ghostly particle caught in polar ice ushers in new way to look at the universe," 12 July 2018 Neutrinos are tiny particles that pass through our bodies by the billions each second but seldom interact. Natalie Wolchover, Washington Post, "Evidence for a new fundamental particle thrills and baffles physicists," 18 June 2018 But for a single particle this is no problem at all. Christoph Adami, Newsweek, "How Stephen Hawking's Black Hole Discoveries Rewrote Physics of Space-Time," 19 Mar. 2018 The ScanPyramids team takes advantage of cosmic rays, which are high-energy particles emitted by the sun and other stars. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Secret Room in Great Pyramid Discovered Thanks to Cosmic Rays From the Sun," 2 Nov. 2017 These ashes trap heat (and are also fine particles) so don't suck them up in a normal vacuum. Samantha Zabell, Good Housekeeping, "5 Things You Should Never Vacuum," 13 June 2014 Large plastics will, over time, degrade into small particles known as microplastics. Radhika Viswanathan, Vox, "Why everyone is shunning plastic straws," 4 July 2018 Just like a photon of light behaves like both a particle and a wave, this blob also has wavelike properties, where one part can actually interfere with another part, to produce ripples in itself like waves colliding in a pond. Sophia Chen, WIRED, "The Quest to Make Super Cold Quantum Blobs in Space," 25 June 2018 Transmission issues after performing a flush are often blamed on loose particles and sediment in the transmission being spread around during the flushing process. Timothy Dahl, Popular Mechanics, "How to Maintain Your Car's Transmission and Avoid Costly Repairs," 14 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'particle.' 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 particle

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for particle

Middle English, from Latin particula, from diminutive of part-, pars

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Statistics for particle

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for particle

The first known use of particle was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for particle



English Language Learners Definition of particle

: a very small piece of something

: a very small amount of something

physics : any one of the very small parts of matter (such as a molecule, atom, or electron)


par·ti·cle | \ ˈpär-ti-kəl \

Kids Definition of particle

: a very small bit or amount of something a particle of sand a particle of sense


par·ti·cle | \ ˈpärt-i-kəl \

Medical Definition of particle 

1 : one of the minute subdivisions of matter (as an atom or molecule) also : elementary particle

2 : a minute quantity or fragment

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Comments on particle

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


the setting in which something occurs

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