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Genetics. deoxyribonucleic acid: an extremely long macromolecule that is the main component of chromosomes and is the material that transfers genetic characteristics in all life forms, constructed of two nucleotide strands coiled around each other in a ladderlike arrangement with the sidepieces composed of alternating phosphate and deoxyribose units and the rungs composed of the purine and pyrimidine bases adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine: the genetic information of DNA is encoded in the sequence of the bases and is transcribed as the strands unwind and replicate.
the set of nongenetic traits, qualities, or features that characterize a person or thing:
Humility is just not in her DNA.
Origin of DNA
1930-35; d(eoxyribo)n(ucleic) a(cid) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for DNA
  • Some eukaryotic organelles such as mitochondria also contain some DNA.
  • The mitochondrial genome is a circular DNA molecule distinct from the nuclear DNA.
  • During processing, DNA is transcribed, or copied into a special rna, called mrna.
  • At the DNA level, the halophiles exhibit distinct dinucleotide and codon usage.
  • The use of DNA fingerprinting comes into play, as it had recently done for the romanovs.
  • Genealogical DNA tests to determine purity of lineage have brought mixed results.
  • This includes the synthesis of macromolecules, including DNA, rna, and proteins.
  • This tendency has been shown through ringing studies and mitochondrial DNA studies.
  • Normally, oncogenes are silent, for example, because of DNA methylation.
  • Genotoxins cause irreversible genetic damage or mutations by binding to DNA.
British Dictionary definitions for DNA


deoxyribonucleic acid; a nucleic acid that is the main constituent of the chromosomes of all organisms (except some viruses). The DNA molecule consists of two polynucleotide chains in the form of a double helix, containing phosphate and the sugar deoxyribose and linked by hydrogen bonds between the complementary bases adenine and thymine or cytosine and guanine. DNA is self-replicating, plays a central role in protein synthesis, and is responsible for the transmission of hereditary characteristics from parents to offspring See also genetic code
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for DNA

1944, abbreviation of deoxyribonucleic acid (1931).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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DNA in Medicine

DNA (dē'ěn-ā')
Deoxyribonucleic acid; a nucleic acid that consists of two long chains of nucleotides twisted together into a double helix and joined by hydrogen bonds between complementary bases adenine and thymine or cytosine and guanine; it carries the cell's genetic information and hereditary characteristics via its nucleotides and their sequence and is capable of self-replication and RNA synthesis.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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DNA in Science

Short for deoxyribonucleic acid. The nucleic acid that is the genetic material determining the makeup of all living cells and many viruses. It consists of two long strands of nucleotides linked together in a structure resembling a ladder twisted into a spiral. In eukaryotic cells, the DNA is contained in the nucleus (where it is bound to proteins known as histones) and in mitochondria and chloroplasts. In the presence of the enzyme DNA polymerase and appropriate nucleotides, DNA can replicate itself. DNA also serves as a template for the synthesis of RNA in the presence of RNA polymerase. Compare RNA. See Note at histone.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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DNA in Culture
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)

The molecule that carries genetic information in all living systems (see genetic code). The DNA molecule is formed in the shape of a double helix from a great number of smaller molecules (see nucleotides). The workings of the DNA molecule provide the most fundamental explanation of the laws of genetics.

DNA acts in three important way. First, when a cell divides, the DNA uncoils, and each strand creates a new partner from the surrounding material — a process called replication. The two cells that result from the cell division have the same DNA as the original (see mitosis). Second, in sexual reproduction, each parent contributes one of the two strands in the DNA of the offspring. Third, inside the cell, the DNA governs the production of proteins and other molecules essential to cell function.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Related Abbreviations for DNA


  1. Defense Nuclear Agency
  2. deoxyribonucleic acid
  3. Dermatology Nurses Association
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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