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[proh-tuh-plaz-uh m] /ˈproʊ təˌplæz əm/
Biology. (no longer in technical use) the colloidal and liquid substance of which cells are formed, excluding horny, chitinous, and other structural material; the cytoplasm and nucleus.
Obsolete. the living matter of organisms regarded as the physical basis of life, having the ability to sense and conduct stimuli.
1840-50; < New Latin prōtoplasma. See proto-, -plasm
Related forms
protoplasmic, protoplasmal, protoplasmatic
[proh-toh-plaz-mat-ik] /ˌproʊ toʊ plæzˈmæt ɪk/ (Show IPA),
interprotoplasmic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for protoplasm
  • Those two combined can reduce me to a quivering heap of protoplasm in less than a half hour.
  • Considering the exposures you list, you probably are blessed with excellent protoplasm.
  • Jellyfish have long been dismissed as so much mindless protoplasm with a mouth.
  • Its anterior two-thirds are covered by a layer of modified protoplasm, which is named the head-cap.
  • Data on the interaction of radiant energy with protoplasm was now possible.
British Dictionary definitions for protoplasm


(biology) the living contents of a cell, differentiated into cytoplasm and nucleoplasm
Derived Forms
protoplasmic, adjective
Word Origin
C19: from New Latin, from proto- + Greek plasma form
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 protoplasm

1848, from German Protoplasma (1846), used by German botanist Hugo von Mohl (1805-1872), on notion of "first-formed," from Greek proto- "first" (see proto-) + plasma "something molded" (see -plasm).

The word was in Late Latin with a sense of "first created thing," and it might have existed in ecclesiastical Greek in a different sense. It was used 1839 by Czech physiologist Johannes Evangelista Purkinje (1787-1869) to denote the gelatinous fluid found in living tissue. The modern meaning is a refinement of this. This word prevailed, though German language purists preferred Urschleim "original mucus."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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protoplasm in Medicine

protoplasm pro·to·plasm (prō'tə-plāz'əm)
The complex, semifluid, translucent substance that constitutes the living matter of plant and animal cells and manifests the essential life functions of a cell. Composed of proteins, fats, and other molecules suspended in water, it includes the nucleus and cytoplasm.

pro'to·plas'mic (-plāz'mĭk) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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protoplasm in Science
The semifluid, translucent substance that forms the living matter in all plant and animal cells. Composed of proteins, fats, and other substances suspended in water, it includes the cytoplasm and (in eukaryotes) the nucleus.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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protoplasm in Culture
protoplasm [(proh-tuh-plaz-uhm)]

The jellylike material in a cell, both inside and outside the nucleus, where the chemical reactions that support life take place.

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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Encyclopedia Article for protoplasm

the cytoplasm and nucleus of a cell. The term was first defined in 1835 as the ground substance of living material and, hence, responsible for all living processes. Advocates of the protoplasm concept implied that cells were either fragments or containers of protoplasm. The weakness of the concept was its inability to account for the origin of formed structures within the cell, especially the nucleus. Today the term is used to mean simply the cytoplasm and nucleus. The word protoplasm is somewhat unpopular in modern biology, although the term protoplasmic streaming is commonly used to describe the movement of the cytoplasm.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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