from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A tissue composed of fibers capable of contracting to effect bodily movement.
  • noun A contractile organ consisting of a special bundle of muscle tissue, which moves a particular bone, part, or substance of the body.
  • noun Muscular strength.
  • noun Informal Power or authority.
  • intransitive verb To make one's way by or as if by force.
  • intransitive verb To move or force with strength.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun See mussel.
  • noun A kind of animal tissue consisting of bundles of fibers whose essential physiological characteristic is contractility, or the capability of contracting in length and dilating in breadth on the application of a proper stimulus, as the impulse of a motor nerve, or a shock of electricity; flesh; “lean meat.”
  • noun A certain portion of muscle or muscular tissue, having definite position and relation with surrounding parts, and usually fixed at one or both ends.
  • noun A part, organ, or tissue, of whatever histological character, which has the property of contractility, and is thus capable of motion in itself.
  • noun Figuratively, muscular strength; brawn: as, a man of muscle.
  • noun See the adjectives.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To compel by threat of force.
  • transitive verb To moved by human force.
  • noun An organ which, by its contraction, produces motion.
  • noun The contractile tissue of which muscles are largely made up.
  • noun colloq. Muscular strength or development.
  • noun (Zoöl.) See Mussel.
  • noun An essential part of something.
  • noun slang Bodyguards or other persons hired to provide protection or commit violence.
  • noun (Physiol.) contraction curve of a muscle; a myogram; the curve inscribed, upon a prepared surface, by means of a myograph when acted upon by a contracting muscle. The character of the curve represents the extent of the contraction.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun uncountable A contractile form of tissue which animals use to effect movement.
  • noun countable An organ composed of muscle tissue.
  • noun uncountable, usually plural A well-developed physique, in which the muscles are enlarged from exercise.
  • noun uncountable, figuratively Strength.
  • noun uncountable Hired strongmen or bodyguards.
  • verb To use force to make progress, especially physical force.

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

  • noun authority or power or force (especially when used in a coercive way)
  • noun animal tissue consisting predominantly of contractile cells
  • noun possessing muscular strength
  • noun one of the contractile organs of the body
  • noun a bully employed as a thug or bodyguard
  • verb make one's way by force


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

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin mūsculus, diminutive of mūs, mouse; see mūs- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French muscle, from Latin mūsculus ("a muscle", literally "little mouse"), because of the mouselike appearance of some muscles, from Ancient Greek μῦς (mus, "mouse, muscle, mussel"). Cognate with Old English mūs ("mouse", also "muscle"). More at mouse.


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  • "Muscle" stems from the word mouse. People believed watching muscles move looked like a mouse crawling under the skin.

    May 7, 2008

  • Latin musculus is a homonym meaning both muscle and a small mouse. The same semantics are found in Greek pontiki. But the Greek mouse was derived from "mus Ponticus", mouse from the Pontus region, where Pontus was the biceps on a male anthropomorphic map. The etymology of muscle is unrelated to mouse. It is related to concepts such as weight, mass, and massage. It is probably related to Semitic mem-sin-aleph, lifting up, burden, load at a time when the aleph still had a chs-sound, and to mem-shin-kuf-lamed MiSHKaL weight. If you lift weights, you will develop your muscles. If you have a lot of muscle, you can lift / carry / pull a lot of weight.

    Israel "izzy" Cohen

    June 10, 2009

  • There is a similar correspondance in the Slavic languages between muscles and mice, e.g. Russian мышца (myshtsa, "muscle") / мышь (mysh', "mouse"); and Slovene mišica ("muscle") / miš ("mouse"), where the suffixes -tsa, -ica form diminutives.

    December 5, 2009