• synonyms


  1. Anatomy. the outer, nonvascular, nonsensitive layer of the skin, covering the true skin or corium.
  2. Zoology. the outermost living layer of an animal, usually composed of one or more layers of cells.
  3. Botany. a thin layer of cells forming the outer integument of seed plants and ferns.
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Origin of epidermis

1620–30; < Late Latin: surface skin < Greek epidermís upper skin. See epi-, derma1
Related formsep·i·der·mal, ep·i·der·mic, adjectiveep·i·der·mi·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for epidermal

Historical Examples

  • Epidermal cells with sinuous thick walls, and a few tooth-hairs.


    H. Marshall Ward

  • (g) The baleen of whales also belongs to the epidermal exoskeleton.

    The Vertebrate Skeleton

    Sidney H. Reynolds

  • The crural glands, which occur in many terrestrial Arthropods, are epidermal in origin and totally distinct from the coxal glands.

  • The epidermal covering of snakes and lizards is periodically molted, or, as we say, the skin is shed.

  • The different species have characteristic tubes, formed by mucus secreted by epidermal glands.

    The Sea-beach at Ebb-tide

    Augusta Foote Arnold

British Dictionary definitions for epidermal


  1. Also called: cuticle the thin protective outer layer of the skin, composed of stratified epithelial tissue
  2. the outer layer of cells of an invertebrate
  3. the outer protective layer of cells of a plant, which may be thickened by a cuticle
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Derived Formsepidermal, epidermic or epidermoid, adjective

Word Origin

C17: via Late Latin from Greek, from epi- + derma 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 epidermal



1620s, from Greek epidermis, from epi "on" (see epi-) + derma "skin" (see derma). Related: Epidermal; epidermic.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

epidermal in Medicine


  1. The nonvascular outer protective layer of the skin, covering the dermis.
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Related formsep′i•dermal (-məl) null adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

epidermal in Science


  1. The protective outer layer of the skin. In invertebrate animals, the epidermis is made up of a single layer of cells. In vertebrates, it is made up of many layers of cells and overlies the dermis. Hair and feathers grow from the epidermis.
  2. The outer layer of cells of the stems, roots, and leaves of plants. In most plants, the epidermis is a single layer of cells set close together to protect the plant from water loss, invasion by fungi, and physical damage. The epidermis that is exposed to air is covered with a protective substance called cuticle. See more at photosynthesis.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

epidermal in Culture



The outside layers of the skin.

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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.