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[toh-meyn, toh-meyn] /ˈtoʊ meɪn, toʊˈmeɪn/
any of a class of foul-smelling nitrogenous substances produced by bacteria during putrefaction of animal or plant protein: formerly thought to be toxic.
Origin of ptomaine
1875-80; < Italian ptomaina < Greek ptôma corpse + Italian -ina -ine2
Related forms
ptomainic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for ptomaine


any of a group of amines, such as cadaverine or putrescine, formed by decaying organic matter
Word Origin
C19: from Italian ptomaina, from Greek ptoma corpse, from piptein to fall
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
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Word Origin and History for ptomaine

1880, from Italian ptomaina, coined by Professor Francesco Selmi of Bologna, 1878, from Greek ptoma "corpse," on notion of poison produced in decaying matter. Greek ptoma is literally "a fall, a falling," via the notion of "fallen thing, fallen body;" nominal derivative of piptein "to fall" (see symptom). Incorrectly formed, and Selmi is roundly scolded for it in OED, which says proper Greek would be *ptomatine.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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ptomaine in Medicine

ptomaine pto·maine (tō'mān', tō-mān')
A basic nitrogenous organic compound produced by bacterial putrefaction of protein.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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ptomaine in Science
Any of various toxic nitrogenous organic compounds produced by bacterial decomposition of protein, especially in dead animal tissue. Ptomaines are bases and are formed by removing the carboxyl group (COOH) from amino acids. They do not cause food poisoning, as was previously thought, but the term ptomaine poisoning is still used to describe food poisoning caused by bacteria.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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