senescence

noun

se·​nes·​cence si-ˈne-sᵊn(t)s How to pronounce senescence (audio)
1
: the state of being old : the process of becoming old or aging
The life of a mosquito—and this may be the only good news about the insect—is brutal and short. Roughly one in five die every day, and not from senescence.Gary Taubes
Until we're all brain patterns on computers, there are still forces that do not bend to our wants, including senescence and death.John Hodgman
2
: permanent arrest of the cell cycle in which cell division ceases
Cells divide as tissues develop and regenerate, but they can only do so a limited number of times. Eventually they stop dividing and enter a state called cellular senescence.Science
Cellular senescence is well correlated with the shortening of telomeres to less than the size required to maintain the integrity of chromosomes.Daniel A. Haber
3
: the growth phase in a plant or plant part (such as a leaf) from full maturity to death
… healthy leaves progress from active photosynthesis through senescence.B. N. Rock et al.

Did you know?

Senescence can be traced back to Latin senex, meaning "old." Can you guess which other English words come from senex? Senile might (correctly) come to mind, as well as senior. But another one might surprise you: senate. This word for a legislative assembly dates back to ancient Rome, where the Senatus was originally a council of elders composed of the heads of patrician families. There's also the much rarer senectitude, which, like senescence, refers to the state of being old (specifically, to the final stage of the normal life span).

Examples of senescence in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Exactly why osteoclasts began misbehaving and inducing excessive porosity remained unknown, but the researchers suspected cell senescence played a role. William A. Haseltine, Forbes, 11 Dec. 2023 Other articles in the series have touched on cell senescence, bone and muscle maintenance, heart health, DNA damage, and a number of other topics. William A. Haseltine, Forbes, 2 Mar. 2024 The characters in it—which, of course, are all Sherman in disguise—are women in their senescence, a state Sherman exaggerates to cartoonish effect, using pancaked makeup and Cubistic digital-collage techniques that can make the faces of her imaginary subjects puffy, pinched, and simply strange. Chris Wiley, The New Yorker, 20 Feb. 2024 The issue is that cells in a state of senescence release a steady stream of inflammatory molecules. William A. Haseltine, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 The president’s senescence and stubborn adherence to counterproductive policies brings to mind the brief reign of General Secretary Konstantin Chernenko. WSJ, 14 Sep. 2023 Inflammation, senescence and malignancy spread throughout the surrounding tissue. Matt Hrodey, Discover Magazine, 27 July 2023 The result is to keep superhero movies, and much of Hollywood, in an artificial state of immaturity that’s indistinguishable from senescence. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 9 Nov. 2023 The takes on what this study might say about cell senescence are more mixed. Max G. Levy, WIRED, 12 July 2023

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

Word History

Etymology

senesc(ent) + -ence

First Known Use

1695, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of senescence was in 1695

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Dictionary Entries Near senescence

Cite this Entry

“Senescence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/senescence. Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Medical Definition

senescence

noun
se·​nes·​cence si-ˈnes-ᵊn(t)s How to pronounce senescence (audio)
1
: the state of being old : the process of becoming old or aging
Beyond determining the start and end of the reproductive lifespan and rates of fertility, consequences extend to the broad impact of hormonal exposure and epigenetic ageing on health and senescence more generally.Ben Bar-Sadeh et al., Nature Reviews Endocrinology
2
: permanent arrest of the cell cycle in which cell division ceases
Somatic cells are programmed to undergo only a limited number of cell divisions, after which they enter a state called senescence. … Cellular senescence is well correlated with the shortening of telomeres to less than the size required to maintain the integrity of chromosomes.Daniel A. Haber, ACP Medicine
The p53 tumour suppressor is activated by numerous stressors to induce apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, or senescence.Stuart D. Tyner et al., Nature

More from Merriam-Webster on senescence

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