from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A small gemma or similar structure, especially a reproductive structure in some sponges that remains dormant through the winter and later develops into a new individual.
  • n. A hypothetical particle of heredity postulated to be the mediating factor in the production of new cells in the theory of pangenesis.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A small gemma or bud of dormant embryonic cells produced by some freshwater sponges
  • n. A hypothetical particle once thought to be the basis of heredity

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n.
  • n. A little leaf bud, as the plumule between the cotyledons.
  • n. One of the buds of mosses.
  • n. One of the reproductive spores of algæ.
  • n. An ovule.
  • n.
  • n. A bud produced in generation by gemmation.
  • n. One of the imaginary granules or atoms which, according to Darwin's hypothesis of pangenesis, are continually being thrown off from every cell or unit, and circulate freely throughout the system, and when supplied with proper nutriment multiply by self-division and ultimately develop into cells like those from which they were derived. They are supposed to be transmitted from the parent to the offspring, but are often transmitted in a dormant state during many generations and are then developed. See Pangenesis.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In botany: A small bud or gemma.
  • n. The plumule.
  • n. An ovule.
  • n. In zoology, a little bud; a small gemma.
  • n. In biology, one of the hypothetical living units conceived by Darwin as the bearers of the hereditary attributes of animals and plants.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the physically discrete element that Darwin proposed as responsible for heredity


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

French, from Latin gemmula, diminutive of gemma, bud; see gembh- in Indo-European roots.


  • Who cares, after all, that Darwin got his physical theory of inheritance wrong (basing it on a nonexistent entity called the "gemmule")?

    What's Not in Your Genes

  • Darwin's keen analogy of the fertilization of plants by pollen renders development from without conceivable, but as there are no insects to convey gemmules to their destination, each kind of gemmule would have to be exceedingly numerous and easily attracted from amongst an inconceivable number of other gemmules.

    Are the Effects of Use and Disuse Inherited? An Examination of the View Held by Spencer and Darwin

  • The "gemmule" of a Halimeda contained several articulations united, ready to burst their envelope, and become attached to some basis.

    More Letters of Charles Darwin — Volume 1

  • In this regard, he likened Darwin's gemmule theory to Newton's corpuscular theory of light and the molecular theory of matter.

    Chauncey Wright

  • For our "plumule" we have also "gemmule", and French has both of these too. PLUMULE.

  • Each gemmule, according to Mr. Darwin, is really the seat of powers, elective affinities, and special tendencies as marked and mysterious as those possessed by the physiological unit of Mr. Spencer, with the single exception that the former has no tendency to build up the whole living, complex organism of which it forms a part.

    On the Genesis of Species

  • What wonder then that such an excessively complex body should divide and multiply; and what parity is there between such a body and a gemmule?

    On the Genesis of Species

  • Any part of a gemmule would be an impossible (because a _less_ than possible) quantity.

    On the Genesis of Species

  • It is remarkable that Mr. Darwin brings forward in support of gemmule fission, the observation that "Thuret has seen the zoospore of an alga divide itself, and both halves germinate."

    On the Genesis of Species

  • We can easily conceive a being so small, that a gemmule would be to it as large as St. Paul's would be to us.

    On the Genesis of Species


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