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[tran-zis-ter] /trænˈzɪs tər/
Electronics. a semiconductor device that amplifies, oscillates, or switches the flow of current between two terminals by varying the current or voltage between one of the terminals and a third: although much smaller in size than a vacuum tube, it performs similar functions without requiring current to heat a cathode.
Informal. a transistorized radio.
Informal. transistorized:
a transistor radio.
Origin of transistor
First recorded in 1945-50; trans(fer) + (res)istor Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for transistor
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There was a miniature pocket radio—a transistor radio—on top of the short wave cabinet.

    Operation Terror William Fitzgerald Jenkins
  • The electrical properties of this odd specimen are unusual and interesting and could lead to a new type of transistor.

    The Atomic Fingerprint Bernard Keisch
  • The PDP-3 circuitry is the static type using saturating transistor flip-flops and, for the most part, transistor switch elements.

  • The transistor is still a critical item in electronics and production isn't up to demand, especially for special designs.

    The Scarlet Lake Mystery Harold Leland Goodwin
  • I thought she was joking, and we went and listened to somebody's transistor, and then I went back to the lab.

    Warren Commission (9 of 26): Hearings Vol. IX (of 15) The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy
  • Keeter seemed to hesitate for a minute, then shrugged his shoulders and dropped the transistor into the general's sweating palm.

    Membership Drive Murray F. Yaco
  • "Not at all, not at all," said a small, white haired man who had finally wrested the transistor from Beemish.

    Membership Drive Murray F. Yaco
British Dictionary definitions for transistor


a semiconductor device, having three or more terminals attached to electrode regions, in which current flowing between two electrodes is controlled by a voltage or current applied to one or more specified electrodes. The device is capable of amplification, etc, and has replaced the valve in most circuits since it is much smaller, more robust, and works at a much lower voltage See also junction transistor, field-effect transistor
(informal) a transistor radio
Word Origin
C20: originally a trademark, from transfer + resistor, referring to the transfer of electric signals across a resistor
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 transistor

"small electronic device," 1948, from transfer + resistor, so called because it transfers an electrical current across a resistor. Said to have been coined by U.S. electrical engineer John Robinson Pierce (1910-2002) of Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, N.J., where the device was invented in 1947. It that took over many functions of the vacuum tube. Transistor radio is first recorded 1958.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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transistor in Science
An electronic device that controls the flow of an electric current, most often used as an amplifier or switch. Transistors usually consist of three layers of semiconductor material, in which the flow of electric current across the outer layer is regulated by the voltage or current applied at the middle layer. Having replaced the vacuum tube, transistors are the basis of much modern electronic technology, including the microprocessor. See also logic circuit, logic gate.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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transistor in Culture

transistor definition

An electronic device that can work as an amplifier, transforming weak electrical signals into strong ones. It is normally made from silicon or other semiconductors.

Note: The transistor is the basic device used in miniaturized electronic systems, such as portable radios, or as a fast switch in computers.
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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