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  1. Physiology. an end organ or a group of end organs of sensory or afferent neurons, specialized to be sensitive to stimulating agents, as touch or heat.
  2. Cell Biology. any of various specific protein molecules in surface membranes of cells and organelles to which complementary molecules, as hormones, neurotransmitters, antigens, or antibodies, may become bound.
  3. the panlike base of a stall shower.

Origin of receptor

1400–50; late Middle English receptour < Old French < Latin receptor. See reception, -tor
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for receptor

Historical Examples

  • Another is that I haven't even started the transmitter and receptor units.

    Spacehounds of IPC

    Edward Elmer Smith

  • "It substituted for the receptor you smashed," said the attorney.

    The Pirates of Ersatz

    Murray Leinster

  • What did I do in the power station before I smashed the receptor?

    The Pirates of Ersatz

    Murray Leinster

  • In this respect it was like the receptor that had gotten him into trouble.

    The Pirates of Ersatz

    Murray Leinster

  • I want this fella to make a receptor test as soon as possible.

    The Premiere

    Richard Sabia

British Dictionary definitions for receptor


  1. physiol a sensory nerve ending that changes specific stimuli into nerve impulses
  2. any of various devices that receive information, signals, etc
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

Word Origin and History for receptor


mid-15c., from Old French receptour or directly from Latin receptor, agent noun from recipere (see receive). Medical use from 1900.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

receptor in Medicine


  1. A specialized cell or group of nerve endings that responds to sensory stimuli.
  2. A molecular structure or site on the surface or interior of a cell that binds with substances such as hormones, antigens, drugs, or neurotransmitters.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

receptor in Science


  1. A nerve ending or other structure in the body, such as a photoreceptor, specialized to sense or receive stimuli. Skin receptors respond to stimuli such as touch and pressure and signal the brain by activating portions of the nervous system. Receptors in the nose detect the presence of certain chemicals, leading to the perception of odor.
  2. A structure or site, found on the surface of a cell or within a cell, that can bind to a hormone, antigen, or other chemical substance and thereby begin a change in the cell. For example, when a mast cell within the body encounters an allergen, specialized receptors on the mast cell bind to the allergen, resulting in the release of histamine by the mast cell. The histamine then binds to histamine receptors in other cells of the body, which initiate the response known as inflammation as well as other responses. In this way, the symptoms of an allergic reaction are produced. Antihistamine drugs work by preventing the binding of histamine to histamine receptors.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.