• synonyms


[proh-tee-uh n, proh-tee-]
  1. readily assuming different forms or characters; extremely variable.
  2. changeable in shape or form, as an amoeba.
  3. (of an actor or actress) versatile; able to play many kinds of roles.
  4. (initial capital letter) of, relating to, or suggestive of Proteus.
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Origin of protean

First recorded in 1590–1600; Prote(us) + -an
Related formspro·te·an·ism, noun
Can be confusedprotean protein
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for proteanism


  1. readily taking on various shapes or forms; variable
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Word Origin for 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

Word Origin and History for proteanism



1590s, from Greek Proteus, sea god (son of Oceanus and Tethys) who could change his form; his name is literally "first," from protos "first" (see proto-).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

proteanism in Medicine


(prōtē-ən, prō-tē-)
  1. Readily taking on varied shapes, forms, or meanings.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.