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[toh-meyn, toh-meyn] /ˈtoʊ meɪn, toʊˈmeɪn/
any of a class of foul-smelling nitrogenous substances produced by bacteria during putrefaction of animal or plant protein: formerly thought to be toxic.
Origin of ptomaine
1875-80; < Italian ptomaina < Greek ptôma corpse + Italian -ina -ine2
Related forms
ptomainic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for ptomaine
Historical Examples
  • The consequences I suffered were those of ptomaine poisoning.

  • "He might get ptomaine poisoning," finally suggested Shy Thomas.

    The Eternal Boy Owen Johnson
  • Still I think he has made a bad exchange, for Mrs. ptomaine wont last.

    The Celebrity at Home Violet Hunt
  • If Mills has ptomaine poisoning, nothing has happened, the doctor said.

    Boy Scouts in Glacier Park Walter Prichard Eaton
  • In her pride of being a Petticoat she loved every detail of ptomaine Haul.

    Ptomaine Street Carolyn Wells
  • Now, hold on, Dumpling Dear, do you know a culture from a ptomaine?

    Ptomaine Street Carolyn Wells
  • I don't admit that ptomaine Street is as useful as a Hoboken alley.

    Ptomaine Street Carolyn Wells
  • He was a specialist, and, better yet, a specialist in ptomaine Poisoning.

    Ptomaine Street Carolyn Wells
  • And so, he's all tied up in knots with ptomaine poisoning and I've got to straighten him out.

    Ptomaine Street Carolyn Wells
  • He who had been knocked down by a despatch rider sat up, as did those with bronchitis, and those with ptomaine poisoning.

    The Backwash of War Ellen N. La Motte
British Dictionary definitions for ptomaine


any of a group of amines, such as cadaverine or putrescine, formed by decaying organic matter
Word Origin
C19: from Italian ptomaina, from Greek ptoma corpse, from piptein to fall
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 ptomaine

1880, from Italian ptomaina, coined by Professor Francesco Selmi of Bologna, 1878, from Greek ptoma "corpse," on notion of poison produced in decaying matter. Greek ptoma is literally "a fall, a falling," via the notion of "fallen thing, fallen body;" nominal derivative of piptein "to fall" (see symptom). Incorrectly formed, and Selmi is roundly scolded for it in OED, which says proper Greek would be *ptomatine.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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ptomaine in Medicine

ptomaine pto·maine (tō'mān', tō-mān')
A basic nitrogenous organic compound produced by bacterial putrefaction of protein.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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ptomaine in Science
Any of various toxic nitrogenous organic compounds produced by bacterial decomposition of protein, especially in dead animal tissue. Ptomaines are bases and are formed by removing the carboxyl group (COOH) from amino acids. They do not cause food poisoning, as was previously thought, but the term ptomaine poisoning is still used to describe food poisoning caused by bacteria.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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