Definitions

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

  • n. A microscopic or minute organism, such as an amoeba or paramecium, usually considered to be an animal.
  • n. Archaic A tiny animal, such as a mosquito.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A minute or microscopic animal or protozoan.
  • n. A tiny animal, as a mouse or insect (fly, mosquito, midge).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A small animal, as a fly, spider, etc.
  • n. An animal, invisible, or nearly so, to the naked eye. See Infusoria.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Any little animal, as a mouse, insect, etc.
  • n. A minute or microscopic animal, nearly or quite invisible to the naked eye, as an infusorian or rotifer; an animalculum: as, the bell-animalcule, a ciliate infusorian of the family Vorticellid├Ž; wheel-animalcule, a rotifer; bear-animalcule, a minute arachnidan of the order Arctisca. See cuts under Arctisca, Rotifera, and Vorticella.

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

  • n. microscopic organism such as an amoeba or paramecium

Etymologies

New Latin animalculum, diminutive of Latin animal, animal, from anima, soul; see anima.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Latin animal + the diminutive suffix -culum (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • For instance, there is the word animalcule (plural animalcules), also written animalculum (plural animalcula).

    Literary Blunders; A chapter in the "History of Human Error"

  • Of voluntary capacities and powers the newborn infant possesses little more than the simplest unicellular animalcule, that is, about all it can do is to scent and swallow food.

    Nature Cure

  • These movements are termed amoebiform, because they quite resemble the movements of a small animalcule which is named amoeba.

    Young Folks' Library, Volume XI (of 20) Wonders of Earth, Sea and Sky

  • The microscope cannot find the animalcule which is less perfect for being little.

    Essays: First Series (1841)

  • In the vast cosmic exchanges the universal life goes and comes in unknown quantities, rolling entirely in the invisible mystery of effluvia, employing everything, not losing a single dream, not a single slumber, sowing an animalcule here, crumbling to bits a planet there, oscillating and winding, making of light

    Les Miserables

  • The reefs of the Pacific, the deep-sea soundings of the Atlantic, show that it is to the slow-growing coral and to the imperceptible animalcule, which lives its brief space and then adds its tiny shell to the muddy cairn left by its brethren and ancestors, that we must look as the agents in the formation of limestone and chalk, and not to hypothetical oceans saturated with calcareous salts and suddenly depositing them.

    Essays

  • There is no matematical or physic law which can explain a primitive life form such as a animalcule.

    Why biology is harder than physics

  • Perhaps there is some microscopic animalcule of which Medicine and Science are not yet aware which invaded the tins during transit or even at Goldner's victualling factory.

    The Terror

  • The red earth, like that of the Pampas, in which these remains were embedded, contains, according to Professor Ehrenberg, eight fresh-water and one salt-water infusorial animalcule; therefore, probably, it was an estuary deposit.

    Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle

  • But behind them I could see, minute, pallid, convulsive, expiring, a remote gaze placed under this powerful apparatus, as, in a laboratory equipped out of all proportion to the work that is done in it, you may watch the last throes of some insignificant animalcule through the latest and most perfect type of microscope.

    The Captive

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  • At the idle aqueduct, scribbled over with weed now,
    Grandfather would find an abundance of animalcules...

    - Peter Reading, Early Closing, from For the Municipality's Elderly, 1974

    June 22, 2008