[ re-truh-vahy-ruhs, re-truh-vahy- ]

noun,plural ret·ro·vi·rus·es.
  1. any of a family of single-stranded RNA viruses having a helical envelope and containing an enzyme that allows for a reversal of genetic transcription, from RNA to DNA rather than the usual DNA to RNA, the newly transcribed viral DNA being incorporated into the host cell's DNA strand for the production of new RNA retroviruses: the family includes the AIDS virus and certain oncogene-carrying viruses implicated in various cancers.

Origin of retrovirus

First recorded in 1975–80; retro- + virus

Other words from retrovirus

  • ret·ro·vi·ral, adjective

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

How to use retrovirus in a sentence

  • Instead of using a retrovirus (as Japanese scientists had done) that can cause cancer, they are using an adenovirus which is safe.

    Bush's Deadly Blunder | Jeffrey Hart | November 26, 2008 | THE DAILY BEAST

British Dictionary definitions for retrovirus


/ (ˈrɛtrəʊˌvaɪrəs) /

  1. any of several viruses whose genetic specification is encoded in RNA rather than DNA and that are able to reverse the normal flow of genetic information from DNA to RNA by transcribing RNA into DNA: many retroviruses are known to cause cancer in animals

Derived forms of retrovirus

  • retroviral, adjective

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 retrovirus


[ rĕt′rō-vīrəs ]

  1. Any of a group of RNA viruses whose RNA is used as a template inside a host cell for the formation of DNA by means of the enzyme reverse transcriptase. The DNA thus formed is inserted into the host cell's genome. Most retroviruses can cause cancer. Retroviruses also include HIV.

Other words from retrovirus

  • retroviral adjective

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

Cultural definitions for retrovirus


A virus, such as HIV, whose RNA codes for DNA, which is then inserted into some part of the host's DNA. This virus comes with its own special enzyme, called reverse transcriptase, which facilitates this insertion.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.