[ pol-ee-mawr-fiz-uhm ]
See synonyms for polymorphism on Thesaurus.com
  1. the state or condition of being polymorphous.

  2. Crystallography. crystallization into two or more chemically identical but crystallographically distinct forms.

  1. Biology. the existence of an organism in several form or color varieties as a result of discontinuous variation.

  2. Genetics. the presence of two or more distinct phenotypes in a population due to the expression of different alleles of a given gene, as human blood groups O, A, B, and AB.

Origin of polymorphism

First recorded in1830–40; polymorph + -ism

Other words from polymorphism

  • pol·y·mor·phis·tic, adjective

Words Nearby polymorphism

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use polymorphism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for polymorphism


/ (ˌpɒlɪˈmɔːfɪzəm) /

  1. biology

    • the occurrence of more than one form of individual in a single species within an interbreeding population

    • the occurrence of more than one form in the individual polyps of a coelenterate colony

  2. the existence or formation of different types of crystal of the same chemical compound

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 polymorphism


[ pŏl′ē-môrfĭz′əm ]

  1. The occurrence of more than one form, as several alleles of a particular gene or winged and wingless forms of the same species. In bees, the presence of queen, worker, and drone is an example of polymorphism. Differences between the sexes and between breeds of domesticated animals are not considered examples of polymorphism.

  2. The crystallization of a compound in at least two distinct forms. Diamond and graphite, for example, are polymorphs of the element carbon. They both consist entirely of carbon but have different crystal structures and different physical properties.

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