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a combining form meaning “black,” used in the formation of compound words: melanocyte.



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Also especially before a vowel, melan- .

Origin of melano-

From Greek, combining form of mélās “black”
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does melano- mean?

Melano- is a combining form used like a prefix meaning “black, dark-colored.” In biology and medicine, melano- is specifically used to refer to melanin, “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.”

Melano- comes from the Greek mélās, meaning “black.” The word melancholy is also derived in part from this root.

What does the Greek word for black have to do with a gloomy state of mind? Discover the connection at our entry and video for melancholy.

What are variants of melano-?

When combined with words or word elements that begin with a vowel, melano- becomes melan-, as in melanin.

Examples of melano-

One medical term that uses the combining form melano- is melanoglossia, a condition known as “black tongue” and caused by a buildup of such things as dead cells and bacteria on the tongue. (Brush your teeth!)

The beginning of the word, melano-, means “black,” as we’ve seen. The second part of the word, –glossia, comes from the Greek glôssa, meaning “tongue.” Melanoglossia literally translates to “black tongue.” Learn more about –glossia at our entry for glossa.

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

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

Break it down!

Melanoblastoma is a type of skin tumor. Based on the meaning of melano-, would you expect a melanoblastoma to be light or dark in color?

Example sentences from the Web for melano-

British Dictionary definitions for melano-


before a vowel melan-

combining form

black or darkmelanin; melanism; melanocyte; melanoma

Word Origin for melano-

from Greek melas black
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

Medical definitions for melano-



Black; dark:melanin.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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