any of a class of insoluble pigments, found in all forms of animal life, that account for the dark color of skin, hair, fur, scales, feathers, etc.

Origin of melanin

First recorded in 1835–45; melan- + -in2
Related formsmel·a·nin·like, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for melanin

Contemporary Examples of melanin

Historical Examples of melanin

  • Hence the hair grown from a follicle under such conditions lacks pigment (melanin) and is white.

    American Weasels

    E. Raymond Hall

  • As the parasite feeds and grows there is deposited within its body a blackish or brownish pigment known as melanin.

    Insects and Diseases

    Rennie W. Doane

  • The colour varies from brown to black, according to the amount of melanin pigment present.

    Manual of Surgery

    Alexis Thomson and Alexander Miles

  • These are generally called melanin granules, but are much better referred to as hmozoin, as they are not related to melanin.

    Handbook of Medical Entomology

    William Albert Riley

  • The melanotic cancer contains abundant pigment, melanin, within its cells.

British Dictionary definitions for melanin



any of a group of black or dark brown pigments present in the hair, skin, and eyes of man and animals: produced in excess in certain skin diseases and in melanomas
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 melanin

dark brown or black pigment found in animal bodies, 1832, Modern Latin, with chemical suffix -in (2); first element from Greek melas (genitive melanos) "black," from PIE root *mel- "dark, soiled, dirty" (cf. Sanskrit malinah "dirty, stained, black," Lithuanian melynas "blue," Latin mulleus "reddish"). Related: Melanism; melanistic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

melanin in Medicine




Any of a group of naturally occurring dark pigments composed of granules of highly irregular polymers that usually contain nitrogen or sulfur atoms, especially the pigment found in skin, hair, fur, and feathers.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

melanin in Science



Any of various pigments that are responsible for the dark color of the skin, hair, scales, feathers, and eyes of animals and are also found in plants, fungi, and bacteria. Melanins are polymers, often bound to proteins, and in the animal kingdom are built from compounds produced by the oxidation of the amino acid tyrosine.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

melanin in Culture



A dark brown coloring found in the body, especially in the skin and hair. Produced by special skin cells that are sensitive to sunlight, melanin protects the body by absorbing ultraviolet radiation from the sun.


The amount of melanin present in the skin determines the color of a person's complexion: people with a large amount have dark skin, whereas those with very little have fair skin. Melanin is also responsible for tanning.
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.