semicircular canal


Definition of semicircular canal

: any of three loop-shaped tubular parts of the inner ear that are filled with a watery fluid, are positioned at nearly right angles to each other, and play a role in the maintenance of balance and stabilization by detecting rotations or angular movements of the head

Note: Rotational and angular movements of the head cause the watery fluid in one or more of the semicircular canals to shift so that hair cells at the base of the canals bend and generate electrical signals which are transmitted to the brain by a branch of the auditory nerve.

— see ear illustration

Examples of semicircular canal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Paleontologists from the University of Edinburgh analyzed computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans of more than a dozen fossil skulls to study the vestibular system -- the three looping semicircular canals of the inner ear which control balance. Amy Woodyatt, CNN, "Deadly ancient crocodiles imitated whales to dominate the oceans," 21 Apr. 2020 That system operates as the body’s balance organ; its three semicircular canals are filled with fluid and tiny hair cells that sense in which direction the body is moving. Heidi Mitchell, WSJ, "What’s the Remedy for Car Sickness?," 15 Aug. 2018 But a tiny semicircular canal in the skull suggests was markedly different from gibbons, reports Dvorsky. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Is This Baby Animal the Last Common Ancestor of Humans and Apes?," 10 Aug. 2017

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

1694, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of semicircular canal was in 1694

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Cite this Entry

“Semicircular canal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for semicircular canal

semicircular canal

semi·​cir·​cu·​lar canal | \ -ˌsər-kyə-lər- How to pronounce semicircular canal (audio) \

Medical Definition of semicircular canal

: any of the loop-shaped tubular parts of the labyrinth of the ear that together constitute a sensory organ associated with the maintenance of bodily equilibrium, that consist of an inner membranous canal of the membranous labyrinth and a corresponding outer bony canal of the bony labyrinth, and that in all vertebrates above cyclostomes form a group of three in each ear usually in planes nearly at right angles to each other — see semicircular duct

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