[ nip-uhl ]
/ ˈnɪp əl /
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a protuberance of the mamma or breast where, in the female, the milk ducts discharge; teat.
something resembling it, as the mouthpiece of a nursing bottle or pacifier.
a short piece of pipe with threads on each end, used for joining valves.


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Origin of nipple

1520–30; earlier neble, nib(b)le, nepil; perhaps akin to nib; compare Danish nip point; see -le


nip·ple·less, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is a nipple?

A nipple is the part of the breast that sticks out at the center of the areola in mammals, as in Dogs have different numbers of nipples depending on size and breed. 

Nipple can also refer to something that resembles this body part, such as the end of a baby’s bottle or pacifier, as in Joe carefully put the nipple back on the baby’s bottle after filling it with milk. 

Example: The department store purchased a dozen mannequins that did not have nipples on their breasts.

Where does nipple come from?

The first records of nipple come from around 1520. It comes from the earlier words neble, nib(b)le, and nepil. It is possibly related to the word nib, meaning “a point.” The nipple is the central point of a breast or mammary gland.

In female mammals, the nipple is the end of the mammary gland and is what infants suck on to drink milk. For this reason, the nipples are often more pronounced in pregnant or nursing mothers. Because nursing is a trait exclusive to mammals, only mammals have nipples. In fact, the word mammal comes from the shared ability of mammals to nurse their young using mammary glands.

Male mammals (including humans) also have nipples, but male nipples serve no function.

In the United States, nudity laws and censorship standards often treat male and female nipples differently. American men are allowed to be shirtless in public and male nipples can be shown in the media. Some state laws and many local ordinances, however, ban American women from exposing their nipples in public, and female nipples are often censored in American media. This can make it difficult for a woman to feed her child in public.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to nipple?

  • nippleless (adjective)

What are some synonyms for nipple?

What are some words that share a root or word element with nipple

What are some words that often get used in discussing nipple?

How is nipple used in real life?

The word nipple is used to refer to a part of the body. As you might expect, this word is often used in discussions and descriptions of material that is not considered appropriate for children.

How to use nipple in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for nipple

/ (ˈnɪpəl) /

Also called: mamilla, papilla, teat the small conical projection in the centre of the areola of each breast, which in women contains the outlet of the milk ductsRelated adjective: mamillary
something resembling a nipple in shape or function
Also called: grease nipple a small drilled bush, usually screwed into a bearing, through which grease is introduced
US and Canadian an informal word for dummy (def. 11)

Word Origin for nipple

C16: from earlier neble, nible, perhaps from neb, nib
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

Scientific definitions for nipple

[ nĭpəl ]

A small projection near the center of the mammary gland. In females, the nipple contains the outlets of the milk ducts.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.