noun, plural pa·pil·lae [puh-pil-ee] /pəˈpɪl i/.
  1. any small, nipplelike process or projection.
  2. one of certain small protuberances concerned with the senses of touch, taste, and smell: the papillae of the tongue.
  3. a small vascular process at the root of a hair.
  4. a papule or pimple.

Origin of papilla

1400–50; late Middle English < Latin: nipple, teat, diminutive of papula pimple. See pap2
Related formspap·il·lar [pap-uh-ler, puh-pil-er] /ˈpæp ə lər, pəˈpɪl ər/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Historical Examples of papillae

British Dictionary definitions for papillae


noun plural -lae (-liː)
  1. the small projection of tissue at the base of a hair, tooth, or feather
  2. any other similar protuberance
  3. any minute blunt hair or process occurring in plants
Derived Formspapillary, papillate or papillose, adjective

Word Origin for papilla

C18: from Latin: nipple; related to Latin papula pimple
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 papillae



plural papillae, 1690s, "nipple," from Latin papilla "nipple," diminutive of papula "swelling" (see pap (n.2)). Meaning "nipple-like protuberance" attested from 1713.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

papillae in Medicine


n. pl. pa•pil•lae (-pĭlē)
  1. A small nipplelike projection, such as a protuberance on the skin, at the root of a hair or feather, or at the base of a developing tooth.
  2. One of the small, round or cone-shaped protuberances on the top of the tongue that contain taste buds.
  3. A pimple or pustule.
Related formspapil•lar′y (păpə-lĕr′ē, pə-pĭlə-rē) adj.papil•late′ (păpə-lāt′, pə-pĭlĭt) adj.pap•il•lose (păpə-lōs′, pə-pĭlōs′) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

papillae in Science


Plural papillae (pə-pĭlē)
  1. A small part projecting from the surface of an organism. In mammals, the nipples of the mammary glands and the taste buds of the tongue are papillae. Papillae are often seen on the undersurfaces of mosses and ferns.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.