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1715, from Latin cilia, plural of cilium "eyelid, eyelash," perhaps related to celare "to cover, hide," from PIE root *kel- "to conceal" (see cell), but words for this part of the face can be tricky (see brow). It sometimes is pluralized in English, which is an error. Related: Ciliated; ciliary; ciliate.
A tiny hairlike projection on the surface of some cells and microscopic organisms, especially protozoans. Cilia are capable of whipping motions and are used by some microorganisms, such as paramecia, for movement. Cilia lining the human respiratory tract act to remove foreign matter from air before it reaches the lungs.