syncytium

noun

syn·​cy·​tium sin-ˈsi-sh(ē-)əm How to pronounce syncytium (audio)
plural syncytia sin-ˈsi-sh(ē-)ə How to pronounce syncytium (audio)
1
: a multinucleate mass of cytoplasm resulting from fusion of cells
2
syncytial adjective

Examples of syncytium in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The lungs of patients who die from severe COVID-19 are often riddled with large, multicellular structures called syncytia, which scientists believe may contribute to the respiratory symptoms of the disease. Byclaudia Lopez Lloreda, science.org, 7 June 2023 Instead of becoming a ball of distinct cells, the insect egg forms a syncytium, a single huge multinucleate cell. Quanta Magazine, 9 Sep. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'syncytium.' 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

borrowed from New Latin (in German context), from syn- syn + -cyt- -cyte + -ium -ium

Note: The term was introduced by Ernst haeckel while describing the cellular structure of calcareous sponges in Biologie der Kalkschwämme (Calcisspongien oder Grantien), Band 1 (Berlin, 1872), p. 161: "Syncytium nenne ich bei den Kalkschwämmen die ganze Gewebsmasse, welche durch die Verschmelzung der Geisselzellen des Exoderms der Flimmerlarve entstanden ist, mit Ausschluss der darin gebildeten Kalknadeln. Dieses Syncytium ist aus folgenden Bestandtheilen zusammengesetzt: 1) der Sarcodine, einen hyalinen, structurlosen, contractilen Grundsubstanz, dem modificirten Protoplasma der verschmolzenen Zellen; 2) den bleibenden und sich vermehrenden Kernen dieser Zellen, und 3) den Spicula-Scheiden, welche durch Verdichtung der Grundsubstanz rings um die Oberfläche der Spicula entstanden sind." ("Syncytium is the name I give to the entire tissue mass of calcareous sponges that arises through the fusion of flagellate cells from the exoderm [outer layer] of the larva, with the exception of the calcareous spicules formed within. This syncytium has the following components: 1) the sarcodine [Haeckel's term for this matrix], a hyaline, structureless, contractile matrix, the modified protoplasm of the merged cells; 2) the remaining multiplying nuclei of these cells; and 3) the spicular sheath, which arises through thickening of the matrix surrounding the outer surface of the spicule.")

First Known Use

1876, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of syncytium was in 1876

Dictionary Entries Near syncytium

Cite this Entry

“Syncytium.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/syncytium. Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Medical Definition

syncytium

noun
syn·​cy·​tium sin-ˈsish-(ē-)əm How to pronounce syncytium (audio)
plural syncytia -(ē-)ə How to pronounce syncytium (audio)
1
: a multinucleate mass of cytoplasm resulting from fusion of cells
2

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