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  1. Botany. gemma.
  2. Zoology. an asexually produced mass of cells that is capable of developing into an animal, as a freshwater sponge.
  3. Evolution. one of the hypothetical living units conceived by Darwin in the theory of pangenesis as the bearers of the hereditary attributes.

Origin of gemmule

1835–45; < French < Latin gemmula. See gemma, -ule
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for gemmule

Historical Examples

  • 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

    St. George Mivart

  • The terminal growing bud of the axis is called the plumule or gemmule (g), and represents the ascending axis.

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

    On the Genesis of Species

    St. George Mivart

  • As a theory the gemmule plot is just as good and just as bad scientifically as Weismann's.

  • Darwin's Gemmule Theory is the same guessing; and Weismann rejects it because he did not think of it first.

British Dictionary definitions for gemmule


  1. zoology a cell or mass of cells produced asexually by sponges and developing into a new individual; bud
  2. botany a small gemma
  3. a small hereditary particle postulated by Darwin in his theory of pangenesis

Word Origin

C19: from French, from Latin gemmula a little bud; see gem
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

gemmule in Medicine


  1. The small bud that projects from the parent cell during gemmation.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

gemmule in Science


  1. 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.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.