from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A narrow confining room, as in a prison or convent.
  • noun A small enclosed cavity or space, such as a compartment in a honeycomb or within a plant ovary or an area bordered by veins in an insect's wing.
  • noun Biology The smallest structural unit of an organism that is capable of independent functioning, consisting of cytoplasm, usually one nucleus, and various other organelles, all surrounded by a semipermeable cell membrane.
  • noun The smallest organizational unit of a clandestine group or movement, such as a banned political movement or a terrorist group. A cell's leader is often the only person who knows members of the organization outside the cell.
  • noun A single unit for electrolysis or conversion of chemical into electric energy, usually consisting of a container with electrodes and an electrolyte; a battery.
  • noun A single unit that converts radiant energy into electric energy.
  • noun A fuel cell.
  • noun A geographic area or zone surrounding a transmitter in a cellular telephone system.
  • noun A cell phone.
  • noun Computers A basic unit of storage in a computer memory that can hold one unit of information, such as a character or word.
  • noun A storm cell.
  • noun A small humble abode, such as a hermit's cave or hut.
  • noun A small religious house dependent on a larger one, such as a priory within an abbey.
  • noun A box or other unit on a spreadsheet or similar array at the intersection of a column and a row.
  • intransitive verb To store in a honeycomb.
  • intransitive verb To live in or share a prison cell.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To shut up in a cell; place in a cell.
  • noun One of the water-tight compartments into which the space between the inner and outer shells of a war-vessel, or other metal ship, is divided.
  • noun In archaeology, the inner chamber of megalithic structures, which consists of a space walled by large stones and covered with a slab.
  • noun In spectroscopy, a small glass vessel with parallel sides designed to hold liquids for examination by transmitted light.
  • noun In kinematics, a symmetrical combination of an even number of links.
  • noun the dependent nature of the latter and the primacy of the cell; and the resolution of the physiological activities of the multicellular organism into those of the constituent cells. See plastid, Morgan, and person.
  • noun According to a second view, which is sometimes called the organism standpoint, the essential primary distinctive characteristic of a multicellular organism is its individuality or unity, while its composition out of cells is an indication of its organization, but not the means through which organization has been brought about; its individuality is directly comparable with, or of the same grade as, that of a unicellular organism, and there is no reason why it may not have arisen, in the remote past, through the growth and increasing complexity of a unicellular ancestor which gradually became multicellular in adaptation to its increasing size and complexity. The unity of the egg is regarded as the same as that of the adult and as regulating instead of being controlled by cell-division, which makes no change in the grade of its individuality. Physiologically it is regarded as a coordinated whole, not as an aggregation of cells.
  • noun While there is much to be said in support of each of these opinions, there are grave objections to the acceptance of either of them without compromises with the other, and there is a third view which regards the distinction between the cell standpoint and the organism standpoint as dependent upon the purpose for which the comparison is made, and as in the mind of the interpreter instead of in nature. For many of the purposes of the histologist, the pathologist, the embryologist, and the physiologist the multicellular organism is best considered as a cell-community, while for other purposes it is best considered as a unit or coordinated whole. From the morphological standpoint the cell may properly be regarded apart from the organism, as an individual, but it is not to be forgotten that it is by abstraction that this is done. Physiologically the cell is an individual only when actually isolated and independent of an organism. From this point of view every abstraction is a blunder.
  • noun One of the multi-nucleate cells which occur in the red marrow of the bones, or one of the ganglionic cells in the deeper layers of the brain-cortex.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb rare, rare To place or inclose in a cell.
  • noun A very small and close apartment, as in a prison or in a monastery or convent; the hut of a hermit.
  • noun A small religious house attached to a monastery or convent.
  • noun Any small cavity, or hollow place.
  • noun The space between the ribs of a vaulted roof.
  • noun Same as Cella.
  • noun (Elec.) A jar of vessel, or a division of a compound vessel, for holding the exciting fluid of a battery.
  • noun (Biol.) One of the minute elementary structures, of which the greater part of the various tissues and organs of animals and plants are composed.
  • noun See Air cell.
  • noun (called also cell genesis, cell formation, and cytogenesis), the multiplication, of cells by a process of reproduction under the following common forms; segmentation or fission, gemmation or budding, karyokinesis, and endogenous multiplication. See Segmentation, Gemmation, etc.
  • noun (Biol.) See Cellular theory, under Cellular.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun US, informal A cellular phone.
  • noun communication A region of radio reception that is a part of a larger radio network.
  • noun geometry A three-dimensional facet of a polytope.
  • noun statistics The unit in a statistical array (a spreadsheet, for example) where a row and a column intersect.
  • verb transitive To place or enclose in a cell.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun (biology) the basic structural and functional unit of all organisms; they may exist as independent units of life (as in monads) or may form colonies or tissues as in higher plants and animals
  • noun any small compartment
  • noun a hand-held mobile radiotelephone for use in an area divided into small sections, each with its own short-range transmitter/receiver
  • noun a room where a prisoner is kept
  • noun a small unit serving as part of or as the nucleus of a larger political movement


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English celle, from Old English cell and from Old French, both from Latin cella, chamber; see kel- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From cell phone, from cellular phone, from cellular + telephone

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English *cella (attested in inflected forms), from Latin cella ("chamber, small room, compartment"), later reinforced by Anglo-Norman cel, sele, Old French cele.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word cell.


  • ~ New 'biofuel cell' produces electricity from hydrogen in plain air -- "A pioneering “biofuel cell” that produces electricity from ordinary air spiked with small amounts of hydrogen offers significant potential as an inexpensive and renewable alternative to the costly platinum-based fuel cells that have dominated discussion about the “hydrogen economy” of the future, British scientists reported here today."

    Speedlinking 3/27/07 William Harryman 2007

  • As I was going to my cell I saw big bruisers go into his [fellow prisoner's] cell….

    Torture of Our Prisoners Crowell, Joan Simon 1974

  • The gravity cell, while cheap and effective, is inconvenient for general use, owing to the fact that it cannot be easily transported, and the _dry cell_ has largely supplanted all others, because of the ease with which it can be taken from place to place.

    General Science Bertha M. Clark

  • Each point of the ingrowing lines of the _échelon_ has usually one cell further advanced into the corium than its neighbours, and may be termed the _apical cell_.

    Diseases of the Horse's Foot Harry Caulton Reeks

  • _Every cell comes from a pre-existing cell_ by a process of division, and _every germ cell comes from a pre-existing germ cell_.

    Manhood of Humanity. Alfred Korzybski 1914

  • This term is employed in contradistinction to the later developed cell, commonly termed the _dry cell_.

    Cyclopedia of Telephony & Telegraphy Vol. 1 A General Reference Work on Telephony, etc. etc. George Patterson 1910

  • The zinc is, as a rule, of crowfoot form, as shown, whence this cell derives the commonly applied name of _crowfoot cell_.

    Cyclopedia of Telephony & Telegraphy Vol. 1 A General Reference Work on Telephony, etc. etc. George Patterson 1910

  • If the second cell division plane is formed at right angles to the first, a _cell surface_ or _tetrad_ is formed.

    Outlines of Dairy Bacteriology, 8th edition A Concise Manual for the Use of Students in Dairying 1910

  • Lalande Cell: -- A type of cell, specially adapted to constant-current work, and sometimes used as a central source of current in very small common-battery exchanges is the so-called _copper oxide_, or _Lalande cell_, of which the Edison and the Gordon are types.

    Cyclopedia of Telephony & Telegraphy Vol. 1 A General Reference Work on Telephony, etc. etc. George Patterson 1910

  • The building generally he could indicate with certainty, but he professed himself unable to indicate the particular part of it which 'the young woman brought in on the day previous' would be likely to occupy; consequently he could not point out the window from which her cell (her '_cell_!' what a word!) would be lighted.

    Narrative and Miscellaneous Papers Thomas De Quincey 1822


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