[ em-bree-oh ]
/ ˈɛm briˌoʊ /
Save This Word!

noun, plural em·bry·os.
the young of a viviparous animal, especially of a mammal, in the early stages of development within the womb, in humans up to the end of the second month.Compare fetus.
the rudimentary plant usually contained in the seed.
any multicellular animal in a developmental stage preceding birth or hatching.
the beginning or rudimentary stage of anything: He charged that the party policy was socialism in embryo.
Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!
Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of embryo

First recorded in 1580–90; from Medieval Latin embryo, embryon-, from Greek émbryon, noun use of neuter of émbryos “ingrowing,” equivalent to em- “in” + bry- (stem of brýein “to swell”) + -os adjective suffix; em-2

Other definitions for embryo (2 of 2)


a combining form representing embryo in compound words: embryology.
Also especially before a vowel, embry-.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does embryo- mean?

Embryo- is a combining form used like a prefix representing the word embryo. It is often used in scientific terms, especially in anatomy and biology.

Embryo- ultimately comes from the Greek émbryos, meaning “ingrowing.”

What are variants of embryo-?

When combined with words or word elements that begin with a vowel, embryo- becomes embry-, as in embryectomy.

Examples of embryo-

One example of a medical term that features the form embryo- is embryology, “the science dealing with the formation, development, structure, and functional activities of embryos.”

The first part of the word, embryo-, is clear: it means “embryo.” The second part of the word, -logy, is a combining form used to name the sciences or bodies of knowledge. Embryology literally translates to “the study of embryos.”

What are some words that use the combining form embryo-?

What are some other forms that embryo- may be commonly confused with?

Break it down!

The word genesis means “origin, creation, development.” With this and the meaning of embryo- in mind, what does embryogenesis involve?

How to use embryo in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for embryo

/ (ˈɛmbrɪˌəʊ) /

noun plural -bryos
an animal in the early stages of development following cleavage of the zygote and ending at birth or hatching
the human product of conception up to approximately the end of the second month of pregnancyCompare fetus
a plant in the early stages of development: in higher plants, the plumule, cotyledons, and radicle within the seed
an undeveloped or rudimentary state (esp in the phrase in embryo)
something in an early stage of developmentan embryo of an idea

Derived forms of embryo

embryoid, adjective

Word Origin for embryo

C16: from Late Latin, from Greek embruon, from bruein to swell
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 embryo

[ ĕmbrē-ō′ ]

An animal in its earliest stage of development, before all the major body structures are represented. In humans, the embryonic stage lasts through the first eight weeks of pregnancy. In humans, other placental mammals, and other viviparous animals, young born as embryos cannot thrive. In marsupials, the young are born during the embryonic stage and complete their development outside the uterus, attached to a teat within the mother's pouch.
The developing young of an egg-laying animal before hatching.
The sporophyte of a plant in its earliest stages of development, such as the miniature, partially developed plant contained within a seed before germination.

Other words from embryo

embryonic adjective (ĕm′brē-ŏnĭk)
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for embryo

[ (em-bree-oh) ]

A developing plant or animal. A plant embryo is an undeveloped plant inside a seed. An animal embryo is the animal as it develops from the single cell of the zygote until birth. Among humans and most other mammals, the embryo is carried in the mother's womb.

notes for embryo

The term is occasionally used to denote a new or developing idea or project: “The idea for the complete theory was already present in his work, in embryo form, in 1950.”
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.