[ muh-tab-uh-liz-uh m ]
/ məˈtæb əˌlɪz əm /


Biology, Physiology. the sum of the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its material substance is produced, maintained, and destroyed, and by which energy is made available.Compare anabolism, catabolism.
any basic process of organic functioning or operating: changes in the country's economic metabolism.

Nearby words

  1. metabolic craniopathy,
  2. metabolic equivalent,
  3. metabolic heat,
  4. metabolic pathway,
  5. metabolic syndrome,
  6. metabolite,
  7. metabolize,
  8. metabolome,
  9. metabolomics,
  10. metaboly

Origin of metabolism

1875–80; < Greek metabol(ḗ) change (meta- meta- + bolḗ a throw) + -ism

Related formshy·per·me·tab·o·lism, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for metabolism

British Dictionary definitions for metabolism


/ (mɪˈtæbəˌlɪzəm) /


the sum total of the chemical processes that occur in living organisms, resulting in growth, production of energy, elimination of waste material, etcSee anabolism, basal metabolism, catabolism
the sum total of the chemical processes affecting a particular substance in the bodycarbohydrate metabolism; iodine metabolism
Derived Formsmetabolic (ˌmɛtəˈbɒlɪk), adjectivemetabolically, adverb

Word Origin for metabolism

C19: from Greek metabolē change, from metaballein to change, from meta- + ballein to throw

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 metabolism



in physiology sense, 1878, from French métabolisme, from Greek metabole "a change," from metaballein "to change," from meta- "over" (see meta-) + ballein "to throw" (see ballistics).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for metabolism


[ mĭ-tăbə-lĭz′əm ]


The complex of physical and chemical processes occurring within a living cell or organism that are necessary for the maintenance of life. In metabolism some substances are broken down to yield energy for vital processes while other substances, necessary for life, are synthesized.
The functioning of a specific substance, such as water, within the living body.

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

Science definitions for metabolism


[ mĭ-tăbə-lĭz′əm ]

The chemical processes by which cells produce the substances and energy needed to sustain life. As part of metabolism, organic compounds are broken down to provide heat and energy in the process called catabolism. Simpler molecules are also used to build more complex compounds like proteins for growth and repair of tissues as part of anabolism. Many metabolic processes are brought about by the action of enzymes. The overall speed at which an organism carries out its metabolic processes is termed its metabolic rate (or, when the organism is at rest, its basal metabolic rate). Birds, for example, have a high metabolic rate, since they are warm-blooded, and their usual method of locomotion, flight, requires large amounts of energy. Accordingly, birds usually need large amounts of high-quality, energy-rich foods such as seeds or meat, which they must eat frequently. See more at cellular respiration.
Related formsmetabolic adjective (mĕt′ə-bŏlĭk)

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for metabolism


[ (muh-tab-uh-liz-uhm) ]

The total of the chemical reactions that maintain the life of a living thing.


In humans, metabolism is related to the intake and use of food; persons with a high metabolism can eat more without gaining weight.

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.