a part or an individual taken as exemplifying a whole mass or number; a typical animal, plant, mineral, part, etc.
(in medicine, microbiology, etc.) a sample of a substance or material for examination or study: a urine specimen; a tissue specimen.
a particular or peculiar kind of person.

Origin of specimen

1600–10; < Latin: mark, example, indication, sign, equivalent to speci-, stem of specere to look, regard + -men noun suffix denoting result or means

Synonyms for specimen

Synonym study

1. See example.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for specimen

Contemporary Examples of specimen

  • That gave participants an opportunity to try taxidermy without skinning the specimen, which some people find hard to stomach.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Edible Taxidermy: It’s a Good Thing

    Lizzie Crocker

    August 5, 2014

  • The lab report came back showing the specimen was some kind of rotten meat.

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    Egypt Revolt: American Dreams of Cairo

    Kareem Saleh

    January 31, 2011

  • One day during his office hours, a female student asked him if he would agree to have a specimen studied in his laboratory.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Egypt Revolt: American Dreams of Cairo

    Kareem Saleh

    January 31, 2011

  • Officials there quickly handed over the specimen to Dutch authorities who have assumed investigative responsibility in this case.

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    Natalee Holloway: Is the Bone in Aruba Hers?

    Barbie Latza Nadeau

    November 19, 2010

  • Anne Boleyn, second wife to Henry the VIII, is a specimen of speculation, admiration, and everything in between.

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    This Week's Hot Reads

    The Daily Beast

    December 29, 2009

Historical Examples of specimen

British Dictionary definitions for specimen



  1. an individual, object, or part regarded as typical of the group or class to which it belongs
  2. (as modifier)a specimen signature; a specimen page
med a sample of tissue, blood, urine, etc, taken for diagnostic examination or evaluation
the whole or a part of an organism, plant, rock, etc, collected and preserved as an example of its class, species, etc
informal, often derogatory a person

Word Origin for specimen

C17: from Latin: mark, evidence, proof, from specere to look at
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 specimen

1610s, "pattern, model," from Latin specimen "indication, mark, example, sign, evidence," from specere "to look at" (see scope (n.1)). Meaning "single thing regarded as typical of its kind" first recorded 1650s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

specimen in Medicine




A sample, as of tissue, blood, or urine, used for analysis and diagnosis.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.