• WordNet 3.6
    • n protoplasm the substance of a living cell (including cytoplasm and nucleus)
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • n Protoplasm (Biol) The viscid and more or less granular material of vegetable and animal cells, possessed of vital properties by which the processes of nutrition, secretion, and growth go forward; the so-called “ physical basis of life;” the original cell substance, cytoplasm, cytoblastema, bioplasm sarcode, etc.☞ The lowest forms of animal and vegetable life (unicellular organisms) consist of simple or unaltered protoplasm; the tissues of the higher organisms, of differentiated protoplasm.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n protoplasm An albuminoid substance, ordinarily resembling the white of an egg, consisting of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen in extremely complex and unstable molecular combination, and capable, under proper conditions, of manifesting certain vital phenomena, as spontaneous motion, sensation, assimilation, and reproduction, thus constituting the physical basis of life of all plants and animals; sarcode. It is essential to the nature of protoplasm that this substance consist chemically of the four elements named (with or without a trace of some other elements); but the molecule is so highly compounded that these elements may be present in somewhat different proportions in different cases, so that the chemical formula is not always the same. The name has also been somewhat loosely applied to albuminous substances widely different in some physical properties, as density or fluidity. Thus the hard material of so-called vegetable ivory and the soft body of an amœba are both protoplasmic. The physiological activities of protoplasm are manifested in its irritability, or ready response to external stimuli, as well as its inherent capacity of spontaneous movement and other indications of life; so that the least particle of this substance may be observed to go through the whole cycle of vital functions. Protoplasm builds up every vegetable and animal fabric, yet is itself devoid of discernible histological structure. It is ordinarily colorless and transparent, or nearly so, and of glairy or viscid semifluid consistency, as is we'll seen in the bodies of foraminifers, amœbæ, and other of the lowest forms of animal life. Such protoplasm (originally named sarcode), when not confined by an investing membrane, has the power of extension in any direction in the form of temporary processes (see pseudopodium) capable of being withdrawn again; and it has also the characteristic property of streaming in minute masses through closed membranes without the loss of the identity of such masses. An individuated mass of protoplasm, generally of microscopic size, and with or without a nucleus and a wall, constitutes a cell, which may be the whole body of an organism, or the structural unit of aggregation of a multicellular animal or plant. The ovum of any creature consists of protoplasm, and all the tissues of the most complex living organisms result from the multiplication, differentiation, and specialization of such protoplasmic cell-units. The life of the organism as a whole consists in the continuous waste and repair of the protoplasmic material of its cells. Noanimal, however, can elaborate protoplasm directly from the chemical elements of that substance. The manufacture of protoplasm is a function of the vegetable kingdom. Plants make it directly from mineral compounds and from the atmosphere under the influence of the sun's light and heat, thus becoming the storehouse of food-stuff for the animal kingdom. Protoplasm appears to have been first recognizably described by Rosel, in or about 1755, in his account of the proteus-animalcule. It was observed, not named, seventeen years later by Corti, in the cells of Chara. Like motions of protoplasm were noticed by Meyen in 1827 in Vallisneria, and by It. Brown in 1831 in his discovery of the cyclosis in the filaments of Tradescantia. In 1835 Dujardin called attention to a “primary animal substance” in the cells of foraminifers, described as “a sort of slime” endowed with the property of spontaneous motion and contractility, and called it sarcode. The word protoplasm was first used (in the form protoplasma) by Hugo von Mohl, in 1846, with reference to the slimy granular semi-fluid contents of vegetable cells. The identity of this vegetable “protoplasm” with animal “sarcode,” suggested in 1850 by Cohn, who regarded this common substance as “the prime seat of almost all vital activity,” was confirmed by Schultze in 1861; Virchow had in 1858 abandoned the idea that a cell-wall is necessary to the integrity of a cell, holding that a nucleus surrounded by a molecular blastema (that is, protoplasm) constitutes a cell, and Sehultze defined the cell as protoplasm surrounding a nucleus, which since that time the term has come into universal use. Also called bioplasm, cytoplasm or cytioplasm, and plasmogen. See these words, and cuts under amœba and cell, 5.
    • n protoplasm The invisible basis of living substance; the ultimate and true protoplasm as free from all non-living objects. See the extract.
    • n protoplasm Chemical structure. To chemical examination protoplasm yields large amounts of proteids and of water, as well as some fats, carbohydrates, and mineral substances. Of these the proteids are preëminent in some fundamental phenomena of protoplasm. Whether the ultimate protoplasm is one chemical substance or a mixture of substances is not known. Visible portions of protoplasm are complex and non-homogeneous in most cases and minute contiguous areas give different chemical reactions.
    • n protoplasm Physical structure. Protoplasm is essentially liquid in many of its active phases, with great differences of viscosity in different areas and in the same area at different times. It often looks like an emulsion and some of its properties S.—68 are comparable with those of colloidal solutions. Assuming electrical charges in protoplasm, such fundamental activities as contraction of muscle and transmission by nerves have found formal explanations.
    • n protoplasm Deduced biological structure. To explain heredity and some other phenomena of living things, protoplasm has frequently been regarded as made up of units which are generally thought of as ultramicroscopic. Among such units of ultimate protoplasm are the ‘physiological units’ of Herbert Spencer, the ‘gemmules’ of Darwin, the ‘pangens’ of De Vries, the ‘plastidules’ of Haeckel, the ‘biophores’ of Weismann, the ‘micellæ’ of Nägeli, and the ‘plasomes’ of Wiesner. In some cases these units are held to have some of the fundamental attributes of living things. These conceptions afford only formal explanations of certain protoplasmic phenomena.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • n Protoplasm prō′tō-plazm living matter: a homogeneous, structureless substance, forming the physical basis of life, endowed with contractility, with a chemical composition allied to that of albumen
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  • Robert Redford
    Robert Redford
    “People have been so busy relating to how I look, it's a miracle I didn't become a self-conscious blob of protoplasm.”


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
Proto-, + Gr. form, fr. to mold
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
Gr. prōtos, first, plasma, form—plassein, to form.


In literature:

The general protoplasm of the ovum is becoming divided.
"Darwin, and After Darwin (Vol. 1 and 3, of 3)" by George John Romanes
Man and his civilization are held suspended in protoplasm and sunlight.
"The Arena" by Various
If the pleasure fails, the very substance and protoplasm of beauty is wanting.
"The Sense of Beauty" by George Santayana
No protoplasmic being could exist under the direct rays of the Blue Sun.
"The Asses of Balaam" by Gordon Randall Garrett
They consist of what is termed protoplasm.
"God and the World" by Arthur W. Robinson
In many species it is part of a complex of canals or spaces in the protoplasm.
"Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 7, Slice 2" by Various
Yet it was not protoplasmic in nature.
"Where the World is Quiet" by Henry Kuttner
You trace the growth of the emotion of love from protoplasm to man.
"The Kempton-Wace Letters" by Jack London
Koumiss yeast possesses strongly differentiated protoplasm, but lacks any cultural characteristics.
"The Bacillus of Long Life" by Loudon Douglas
Conservation of human protoplasm, 136.
"The Social Direction of Evolution" by William E. Kellicott
As a final result, each of the four spores contains two germs (sporozoites), and a certain amount of residual protoplasm (fig.
"Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 6, Slice 5" by Various
They are related to the protoplasm of the plant, as the protoplasm of the plant is to that of the animal.
"The Voice of Science in Nineteenth-Century Literature" by Various
In each vat a blob of pink protoplasm wiggled happily, showing no sign of discomfiture.
"Contamination Crew" by Alan Edward Nourse
All there was to pit such armament against was a seemingly helpless lump of protoplasm, two inches in diameter.
"Stamped Caution" by Raymond Zinke Gallun
Where are the protoplasm vats?
"Turning Point" by Alfred Coppel
There might be a small but significant change in oyster protoplasm since it has arrived here.
"To Choke an Ocean" by Jesse F. (Jesse Franklin) Bone
It has a large spherical nucleus with a small rim of clear protoplasm surrounding it.
"Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 4, Slice 1" by Various
It's life of a chemical type utterly different from the protoplasm of Earth and Mars and Venus.
"The Secret of the Ninth Planet" by Donald Allen Wollheim
And Haeckel with his habitual audacity foretells the artificial production of Protoplasm for purposes of commerce.
"The Old Riddle and the Newest Answer" by John Gerard
One sees only a gelatinous mass analogous to the protoplasm of a living organism.
"The Mechanism of Life" by Stéphane Leduc

In poetry:

So speak in solemn tones our youthful sages,
Patient, severe, laborious, slow, exact,
As o'er creation's protoplasmic pages
They browse and munch the thistle crops of fact.
"The Coming Era" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

In news:

It's Big, It's Bad, It's Mutating Protoplasm .
These molecules become part of the cell protoplasm.