[ proh-tee-uhn, proh-tee- ]
See synonyms for protean on
  1. readily assuming different forms or characters; extremely variable.

  2. changeable in shape or form, as an amoeba.

  1. (of an actor or actress) versatile; able to play many kinds of roles.

  2. (initial capital letter) of, relating to, or suggestive of Proteus.

Origin of protean

First recorded in 1590–1600; Prote(us) + -an

Other words from protean

  • pro·te·an·ism, noun

Words that may be confused with protean

Words Nearby protean Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use protean in a sentence

  • Curiosity, thoughtless mirth, mock humility, and other symptoms of the protean vice are painted by a master.

  • Remains precisely the question: man feeling this protean capacity to grow a new organ: what organ?

  • Although matter is protean and its transformations limitless, there are certain changes which cannot be made.

  • The story of Proteus itself is protean, and must be grasped in its essence through all its appearances.

    Homer's Odyssey | Denton J. Snider
  • Keats was often impatient of this protean quality of his own mind.

    Keats | Sidney Colvin

British Dictionary definitions for protean


/ (prəʊˈtiːən, ˈprəʊtɪən) /

  1. readily taking on various shapes or forms; variable

Origin of protean

C16: from Proteus

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