• synonyms


[kyoo-ti-kuh l]
  1. the nonliving epidermis that surrounds the edges of the fingernail or toenail.
  2. the epidermis.
  3. a superficial integument, membrane, or the like.
  4. Also called cuticula. Zoology. the outer, noncellular layer of the arthropod integument, composed of a mixture of chitin and protein and commonly containing other hardening substances as well.
  5. Botany. a very thin hyaline film covering the surface of plants, derived from the outer surfaces of the epidermal cells.
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Origin of cuticle

1605–15; < Latin cutīcula the skin, equivalent to cuti(s) skin, cutis + -cula -cle1
Related formscu·tic·u·lar [kyoo-tik-yuh-ler] /kyuˈtɪk yə lər/, adjectivesub·cu·tic·u·lar, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for cuticle

Historical Examples

  • The pileus is without a cuticle, consisting of interwoven fibres.

    The Mushroom, Edible and Otherwise

    M. E. Hard

  • By mechanical attraction, as when water softens the cuticle.

    Zoonomia, Vol. II

    Erasmus Darwin

  • The horn of the hoof is merely a modification of the cuticle (scarf skin).

    The Horsewoman

    Alice M. Hayes

  • I find that blood follows the scalpel as I cut through the cuticle.

  • As the disease subsides, the cuticle comes off (desquamates) in patches.

British Dictionary definitions for cuticle


  1. dead skin, esp that round the base of a fingernail or toenail
  2. another name for epidermis
  3. any covering layer or membrane
  4. the protective layer, containing cutin, that covers the epidermis of higher plants
  5. the hard protective layer covering the epidermis of many invertebrates
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Derived Formscuticular (kjuːˈtɪkjʊlə), adjective

Word Origin

C17: from Latin cutīcula diminutive of cutis skin
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 cuticle


1610s, from Latin cuticula, diminutive of cutis "skin," from PIE *ku-ti-, from root *(s)keu- "to cover, conceal" (cf. Lithuanian kiautas "husk," Old English hyd "skin, hide;" see hide (n.1)). Specialized sense of "skin at the base of the nail" is from 1907. Related: Cuticular.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

cuticle in Medicine


  1. The strip of hardened skin at the base and sides of a fingernail or toenail.
  2. The outermost layer of the skin; epidermis.
  3. Dead or cornified epidermis.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

cuticle in Science


  1. The noncellular, hardened or membranous protective covering of many invertebrates, such as the transparent membrane that covers annelids.
  2. A layer of wax and cutin that covers the outermost surfaces of a plant. The cuticle is secreted by the epidermis and helps prevent water loss and infection by parasites.
  3. The hard skin around the sides and base of a fingernail or toenail.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.