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homunculus

[huh-muhng-kyuh-luh s, hoh-]
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noun, plural ho·mun·cu·li [huh-muhng-kyuh-lahy, hoh-] /həˈmʌŋ kyəˌlaɪ, hoʊ-/.
  1. an artificially made dwarf, supposedly produced in a flask by an alchemist.
  2. a fully formed, miniature human body believed, according to some medical theories of the 16th and 17th centuries, to be contained in the spermatozoon.
  3. a diminutive human being.
  4. the human fetus.
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Origin of homunculus

1650–60; < Latin, equivalent to homun- (variant of homin-, stem of homō man; see Homo) + -culus -cule1
Related formsho·mun·cu·lar, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for homunculus

Historical Examples

  • I prefer the talk of the French homunculus; it is at least more amusing.

    A Bundle of Letters

    Henry James

  • The homunculus offered me his last book, with his last smile.

  • He satisfied himself that the brain of this homunculus was discernible.

  • Meanwhile the Homunculus has found congenial spirits among the sea-nymphs and sirens on the shores of the Aegean.

  • As he watches, the outlines of a diminutive human being—a mannikin or 'homunculus'—become visible and rapidly gain distinct form.


British Dictionary definitions for homunculus

homunculus

noun plural -li (-ˌlaɪ)
  1. a miniature man; midget
  2. (in early biological theory) a fully-formed miniature human being existing in a spermatozoon or egg
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Former name: homuncule (həʊˈmʌŋkjuːl)
Derived Formshomuncular, adjective

Word Origin

C17: from Latin, diminutive of homo man
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 homunculus

n.

1650s, from Latin homunculus, literally "little person," from homo (genitive hominis) "man, human being," the Latin word that means "man, person, a human being" (technically "male human," but in logical and scholastic writing "human being"), also "the human race, mankind," perhaps from PIE *(dh)ghomon-, literally "earthling," from *dhghem- "earth" (see chthonic; also cf. human). With -culus, Latin diminutive suffix. Other Latin diminutives from homo included homullus, homuncio.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

homunculus in Medicine

homunculus

(hō-mŭngkyə-ləs, hə-)
n. pl. ho•mun•cu•li (-lī′)
  1. A diminutive human.
  2. A miniature, fully formed individual which adherents of the early biological theory of preformation believed to be present in the sperm cell.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.