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

  • n. A differentiated structure within a cell, such as a mitochondrion, vacuole, or chloroplast, that performs a specific function.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A specialized structure found inside cells that carries out a specific life process (e.g. ribosomes, vacuoles).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. a specialized part of a cell performing a specific function, usually visible under the microscope as a distinct object; it is analogous to an organ{2}, but on a microscopic scale.

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

  • n. a specialized part of a cell; analogous to an organ


New Latin organella, diminutive of Medieval Latin organum, organ of the body, from Latin, implement, tool; see organ.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)



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  • "A third theory argues that viruses were once part of a cell, an organelle, but broke away and began to evolve independently."
    —John M. Barry, The Great Influenza (NY: Penguin Books, 2004), 99

    February 11, 2009