• synonyms


[toh-meyn, toh-meyn]
  1. any of a class of foul-smelling nitrogenous substances produced by bacteria during putrefaction of animal or plant protein: formerly thought to be toxic.
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Origin of ptomaine

1875–80; < Italian ptomaina < Greek ptôma corpse + Italian -ina -ine2
Related formspto·main·ic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for ptomaine

Historical Examples of ptomaine

  • The consequences I suffered were those of ptomaine poisoning.

    Across America by Motor-cycle

    C. K. Shepherd

  • "He might get ptomaine poisoning," finally suggested Shy Thomas.

    The Eternal Boy

    Owen Johnson

  • Still I think he has made a bad exchange, for Mrs. Ptomaine wont last.

  • If Mills has ptomaine poisoning, nothing has happened, the doctor said.

    Boy Scouts in Glacier Park

    Walter Prichard Eaton

  • I don't admit that Ptomaine Street is as useful as a Hoboken alley.

    Ptomaine Street

    Carolyn Wells

British Dictionary definitions for ptomaine



  1. any of a group of amines, such as cadaverine or putrescine, formed by decaying organic matter
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Word Origin for ptomaine

C19: from Italian ptomaina, from Greek ptoma corpse, from piptein to fall
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 ptomaine


1880, from Italian ptomaina, coined by Professor Francesco Selmi of Bologna, 1878, from Greek ptoma "corpse," on notion of poison produced in decaying matter. Greek ptoma is literally "a fall, a falling," via the notion of "fallen thing, fallen body;" nominal derivative of piptein "to fall" (see symptom). Incorrectly formed, and Selmi is roundly scolded for it in OED, which says proper Greek would be *ptomatine.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

ptomaine in Medicine


(tōmān′, tō-mān)
  1. A basic nitrogenous organic compound produced by bacterial putrefaction of protein.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

ptomaine in Science


  1. Any of various toxic nitrogenous organic compounds produced by bacterial decomposition of protein, especially in dead animal tissue. Ptomaines are bases and are formed by removing the carboxyl group (COOH) from amino acids. They do not cause food poisoning, as was previously thought, but the term ptomaine poisoning is still used to describe food poisoning caused by bacteria.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.