from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. A hypothetical base substance from which all chemical elements were believed to have been made; subatomic particles.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. The hypothetical homogeneous cosmic material of the original universe, supposed to have been differentiated into what are recognized as distinct chemical elements.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. An imagined supersensible, imponderable, indifferent, or primal substance, from which all forms of living matter are supposed to be derived by modification, differentiation, or specialization. Also called variously biod, biogen, zoëther, psychoplasm, etc.
- n. A hypothetical form of primal, undifferentiated matter from which, it has been imagined, by granulation or segregation of minute but definite masses may have been produced the atoms of the various chemical elements.
The atomic theory refers all bodies to one homogeneous basic substance, which has been termed protyle (proto-hyle), from which, by means of a process loosely defined as differentiation, all the elements are derived.
It was conjectured that all the elements might be composed of some one substance, for which a name, protyle, meaning first material, was coined.
The primordial substance -- corresponding to the "protyle" of our Monists -- is composed of Five Elements, which are mystically identified with Five Buddhas, all of whom are really but different modes of the One.
Sir Norman Lockyer interprets the observed phenomena as indicating the successive combinations, in varying proportions, of a very few original ingredients;  but no definite sign of their existence is perceptible; "protyle" seems likely long to evade recognition; and the only intelligible underlying principle for the reasonings employed -- that of "one line, one element" -- implies a throng beyond counting of formative material units.
It is now some years since the late Sir William Crookes attempted to explain the periodicity of the properties of the elements on the theory that they have all been evolved by a conglomerating process from some primal stuff -- the protyle -- consisting of very small particles.
Recent discoveries have resuscitated this never quite abandoned theory; protyle seems to have been discovered, and the atom has ceased to hold its place as the ultimate division of matter.
This seemed to conflict with the accepted definition of the atom, as protyle indicated something anterior to or preceding it.
In these corpuscules we have the one first material, or protyle.
Prescott, then, believes that the elements are merely progressive variations of an original substance or base called 'protyle,' from which everything is derived.
"And this is protyle," said Haw, passing his fingers through it.