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[sil-ee-uh] /ˈsɪl i ə/
plural noun, singular cilium
[sil-ee-uh m] /ˈsɪl i əm/ (Show IPA)
Biology. minute hairlike organelles, identical in structure to flagella, that line the surfaces of certain cells and beat in rhythmic waves, providing locomotion to ciliate protozoans and moving liquids along internal epithelial tissue in animals.
Anatomy. the eyelashes.
Origin of cilia
1705-15; New Latin, plural of cilium eyelash, Latin: upper eyelid, perhaps a back formation from supercilium eyebrow; see supercilium Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for cilia
  • The cilia are used for a variety of activities, including swimming and feeding.
  • These were wildly outsize compared with the body, and covered with fine sensory cilia that waved independently.
  • cilia are the tiny, hairlike structures that move digested food down the intestines.
  • The rainbow glow on the jellyfish comes from light reflecting off the creature's cilia.
  • Once it is in the throat, hairlike projections called cilia move it toward the gut.
  • Activated by heat, the artificial cilia work in groups of four, each group measuring about one millimeter across.
  • Instead, it uses beating hairs called cilia to create imperceptible water currents, which bring its prey straight into its mouth.
  • Flagella usually occur one per organism whereas cilia are present as many, many per cell.
  • The cilia also pull the animal, when unattached, through the water.
British Dictionary definitions for cilia


the plural of cilium
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 cilia

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cilia in Science
Plural cilia
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.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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