Definitions

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

  • n. Biology The outer portion of the continuous phase of cytoplasm of a cell, sometimes distinguishable as a somewhat rigid, gelled layer beneath the cell membrane.
  • n. The visible substance believed to emanate from the body of a spiritualistic medium during communication with the dead.
  • n. An immaterial or ethereal substance, especially the transparent corporeal presence of a spirit or ghost.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The visible substance believed to emanate from the body of a spiritualistic medium during communication with the dead.
  • n. An immaterial or ethereal substance, especially the transparent corporeal presence of a spirit or ghost.
  • n. The outer granule-free layer of cytoplasm.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The outer transparent layer of protoplasm in a developing ovum.
  • n. The outer hyaline layer of protoplasm in a vegetable cell.
  • n. The ectosarc of protozoan.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In zoology, the exterior protoplasm or sarcode of a cell; the ectosarc: applied to the denser exterior substance of infusorians and other unicellular organisms, or of a free protoplasmic body, as a zoöspore.
  • n. In botany, the outer hyaline layer or film of the protoplasmic mass within a cell.

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

  • n. the outer granule-free layer of cytoplasm
  • n. (spiritualism) a substance supposed to emanate from the body of the medium during a trance

Etymologies

ecto- +‎ plasm (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Oliver Lodge, Dr. Schrenk-Notzing, Charles Richet (who coined the word ectoplasm) plus numerous other investigators worldwide spent extensive time and money analyzing the exploits of many channellers and mediums.

    Dan Aykroyd: About Ghosts

  • Most engineers are right-handed, and the brain ectoplasm seeps across into the writing: we find that “experimentalists” on the one hand, and “metrical-obsessives’, on the other (hand), are almost always right-handed.

    By the Numbers : Christian Bök : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation

  • Eva C Carriere, a medium who had originally used her real name, Marthe Beraud, until she was exposed, claimed to be able to produce large quantities of a strange, otherworldly substance called ectoplasm, which was thought to be produced by the bioenergy of the spirits.

    The Secret Life of Houdini

  • Or it may take the more material form of the exudation of a strange white evanescent dough-like substance called the ectoplasm, which has been frequently photographed by scientific enquirers in different stages of its evolution, and which seems to possess an inherent quality of shaping itself into parts or the whole of a body, beginning in a putty-like mould and ending in a resemblance to perfect human members.

    The Vital Message

  • Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves 'heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.

    Spook by Mary Roach: Book summary

  • Burroughs is fond too of the word "ectoplasm," and the beings that surround Lee, particularly the inimical ones, seem ectoplasmic phantoms projected on the wide screen of his consciousness from a mass séance.

    Déjeuner sur l'Herbe

  • You know that there was something like 100,000 Jewish survivors (scroll down to 1946) after world war two but that now there are 350,000 of them because they are reproducing through some kind of ectoplasm precipitation process.

    WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

  • (One of my sons considered "ectoplasm" the ugliest word he knew.)

    The Globe and Mail - Home RSS feed

  • "ectoplasm" from his mouth-by carving words into corpses 'flesh, or, more precisely, by carving whole paragraphs of sinister nonsense that ran up and down their limbs and torsos, filled their cheeks and the backs of their hands.

    PopMatters

  • When we hear accounts of “primitives” talking this way, we dismiss them as superstition because we interpret ghost or spirit as some sort of material ectoplasm, when in fact they may not mean any such thing at all.

    The 7

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Comments

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  • An armchair with stuffing coming out like ectoplasm. From "The Last Werewolf" by Glen Duncan.

    March 27, 2012

  • "He informed me that he was in the 'artistic game', and I gathered later that he was a photographer and had made the dim enlargement of Mrs. Wilson's mother which hovered like a ectoplasm on the wall." - F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby)

    June 13, 2008

  • ''I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids - and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.''
    - Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man)

    January 21, 2007