Try Our Apps


Avoid these words. Seriously.


[sin-aps, si-naps] /ˈsɪn æps, sɪˈnæps/ Physiology
a region where nerve impulses are transmitted and received, encompassing the axon terminal of a neuron that releases neurotransmitters in response to an impulse, an extremely small gap across which the neurotransmitters travel, and the adjacent membrane of an axon, dendrite, or muscle or gland cell with the appropriate receptor molecules for picking up the neurotransmitters.
verb (used without object), synapsed, synapsing.
Cell Biology, Physiology. to form a synapse or a synapsis.
Origin of synapse
1895-1900; back formation from synapses, plural of synapsis Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for synapse
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Every synapse sagged under the increasing load of sensitivity.

    Turning Point Alfred Coppel
  • The contact of the axon of one neuron with the dendrons of another is called a synapse.

    Psychotherapy James J. Walsh
  • These are transferred from neuron to neuron through the synapse.

    Psychotherapy James J. Walsh
  • The synapse, then, is not a thing, but simply a junction between two neurones.

    Psychology Robert S. Woodworth
  • Maybe his secretary's two neurones would fail to synapse this morning, and she'd lose them altogether.

    Meeting of the Board Alan Edward Nourse
  • The place of juxtaposition of the end of one neurone against the beginning of another is called the synapse.

British Dictionary definitions for synapse


the point at which a nerve impulse is relayed from the terminal portion of an axon to the dendrites of an adjacent neuron
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for synapse

"junction between two nerve cells," 1899, from Greek synapsis "conjunction," from synaptein "to clasp," from syn- "together" (see syn-) + haptein "to fasten." Related to apse. Introduced by English physiologist Sir Michael Foster (1836-1907) at the suggestion of English classical scholar Arthur Woollgar Verral (1851-1912).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
synapse in Medicine

synapse syn·apse (sĭn'āps', sĭ-nāps')
The junction across which a nerve impulse passes from an axon terminal to a neuron, a muscle cell, or a gland cell.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source
synapse in Science

The small junction across which a nerve impulse passes from one nerve cell to another nerve cell, a muscle cell, or a gland cell. The synapse consists of the synaptic terminal, or presynaptic ending, of a sending neuron, a postsynaptic ending of the receiving cell that contains receptor sites, and the space between them (the synaptic cleft). The synaptic terminal contains neurotransmitters and cell organelles including mitochondria. An electrical impulse in the sending neuron triggers the migration of vesicles containing neurotransmitters toward the membrane of the synaptic terminal. The vesicle membrane fuses with the presynaptic membrane, and the neurotransmitters are released into the synaptic cleft and bind to receptors of the connecting cell where they excite or inhibit electrical impulses. See also neurotransmitter.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source
synapse in Culture
synapse [(sin-aps, si-naps)]

A gap between two nerve cells. Nerve signals are sent across the gap by neurotransmitters.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for synapse

Difficulty index for synapse

Many English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for synapse

Scrabble Words With Friends