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[kroh-muh-sohm] /ˈkroʊ məˌsoʊm/
noun, Genetics.
any of several threadlike bodies, consisting of chromatin, that carry the genes in a linear order: the human species has 23 pairs, designated 1 to 22 in order of decreasing size and X and Y for the female and male sex chromosomes respectively.
Origin of chromosome
First recorded in 1885-90; chromo- + -some3
Related forms
chromosomal, adjective
chromosomally, adverb
interchromosomal, adjective
interchromosomally, adverb
nonchromosomal, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for chromosomes
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The number of chromosomes in the human cell is said to be forty-eight.

  • A daughter-nucleus is reconstructed in each cell from the chromosomes.

  • We now know that these chromosomes are the actual controllers of heredity.

    Physiology Ernest G. Martin
  • Every cell in our bodies has its nucleus with its equipment of chromosomes.

    Physiology Ernest G. Martin
  • In every one of these cells the chromosomes are arranged in pairs.

    Physiology Ernest G. Martin
  • That means that there is a determiner for it which is grouped with other determiners in one of the chromosomes.

    Physiology Ernest G. Martin
  • These chromosomes in a given plant or animal are always constant in number.

    A Civic Biology George William Hunter
  • After the extrusion of the polar bodies there are 24 chromosomes in the egg.

  • The result of this is that half the number of chromosomes in the ovum are lost.

    Embryology Gerald R. Leighton
British Dictionary definitions for chromosomes


any of the microscopic rod-shaped structures that appear in a cell nucleus during cell division, consisting of nucleoprotein arranged into units (genes) that are responsible for the transmission of hereditary characteristics See also homologous chromosomes
Derived Forms
chromosomal, adjective
chromosomally, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for chromosomes



1889, from German Chromosom, coined 1888 by German anatomist Wilhelm von Waldeyer-Hartz (1836-1921), from Latinized form of Greek khroma "color" (see chroma) + -some (3)). So called because the structures contain a substance that stains readily with basic dyes.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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chromosomes in Medicine

chromosome chro·mo·some (krō'mə-sōm')

  1. A threadlike linear strand of DNA and associated proteins in the nucleus of animal and plant cells that carries the genes and functions in the transmission of hereditary information.

  2. A circular strand of DNA in bacteria and cyanobacteria that contains the hereditary information necessary for cell life.

chro'mo·so'mal (-sō'məl) or chro'mo·so'mic (-sō'mĭk) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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chromosomes in Science

A structure in all living cells that consists of a single molecule of DNA bonded to various proteins and that carries the genes determining heredity. In all eukaryotic cells, the chromosomes occur as threadlike strands in the nucleus. During cell reproduction, these strands coil up and condense into much thicker structures that are easily viewed under a microscope. Chromosomes occur in pairs in all of the cells of eukaryotes except the reproductive cells, which have one of each chromosome, and some red blood cells (such as those of mammals) that expel their nuclei. In bacterial cells and other prokaryotes, which have no nucleus, the chromosome is a circular strand of DNA located in the cytoplasm.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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chromosomes in Culture
chromosomes [(kroh-muh-sohmz)]

The small bodies in the nucleus of a cell that carry the chemical “instructions” for reproduction of the cell. They consist of strands of DNA wrapped in a double helix around a core of proteins. Each species of plant or animal has a characteristic number of chromosomes. For human beings, for example, it is forty-six.

Note: In humans, sex is determined by two chromosomes: an X-chromosome, which is female, and a Y-chromosome, which is male. (See sex chromosomes.)
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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