[ uh-leel ]

  1. any of several forms of a gene, usually arising through mutation, that are responsible for hereditary variation.

Origin of allele

First recorded in 1930–35; from German Allel, apparently as shortening of German equivalents of allelomorph or allelomorphic gene; allelo-, from Greek allēlo-, combining form of allḗlōn “of/to one another, reciprocally”

Other words from allele

  • al·lel·ic [uh-lee-lik, uh-lel-ik], /əˈli lɪk, əˈlɛl ɪk/, adjective
  • al·lel·ism, noun
  • in·ter·al·lel·ic, adjective
  • non·al·lel·ic, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

British Dictionary definitions for allele


/ (əˈliːl) /

  1. any of two or more variants of a gene that have the same relative position on homologous chromosomes and are responsible for alternative characteristics, such as smooth or wrinkled seeds in peas: Also called: allelomorph (əˈliːləˌmɔːf) See also multiple alleles

Origin of allele

C20: from German Allel, shortened from allelomorph, from Greek allēl- one another + morphē form

Derived forms of allele

  • allelic, adjective
  • allelism, noun

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

Scientific definitions for allele


[ ə-lēl ]

  1. Any of the possible forms in which a gene for a specific trait can occur. In almost all animal cells, two alleles for each gene are inherited, one from each parent. Paired alleles (one on each of two paired chromosomes) that are the same are called homozygous, and those that are different are called heterozygous. In heterozygous pairings, one allele is usually dominant, and the other recessive. Complex traits such as height and longevity are usually caused by the interactions of numerous pairs of alleles, while simple traits such as eye color may be caused by just one pair.

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

Cultural definitions for allele


[ (ul-leel) ]

The sequence of nucleotides on a DNA molecule that constitutes the form of a gene at a specific spot or a chromosome. There can be several variations of this sequence, and each of these is called an allele. In the case of the gene for eye color, for example, one allele codes for blue eyes, whereas the other may code for brown eyes.

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