[ spurm ]
/ spɜrm /
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noun, plural sperm, sperms for 2.

a male reproductive cell; spermatozoon.



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The verb tenses can be split into which 3 primary categories?

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Origin of sperm

1350–1400; Middle English sperme<Late Latin sperma<Greek spérma seed, equivalent to sper- (base of speírein to sow seeds) + -ma noun suffix of result

Definition for sperm (2 of 4)

[ spurm ]
/ spɜrm /


Origin of sperm

First recorded in 1830–40; by shortening

Definition for sperm (3 of 4)


variant of spermo- before a vowel: spermine.

Definition for sperm (4 of 4)


a combining form with the meaning “one having seeds” of the kind specified by the initial element: gymnosperm.

Origin of -sperm

<Greek -spermos;see -spermous
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does sperm- mean?

Sperm- is a combining form used like a prefix representing “sperm.” Sperm are the reproductive cells contained in semen. Sperm- means “sperm” both literally and figuratively, as in “germ” or “seed.” It is occasionally used in scientific terms, especially in biology.

Sperm- comes from the Greek spérma, meaning “seed.”

What are variants of sperm-?

Sperm- is a variant of spermo-, which loses its -o- when combined with words or word elements beginning with vowels.

The forms spermi- and spermato- are also combining forms from Greek spérma that are variously used to mean “sperm” or “seed.”

Related combining forms used as suffixes include -sperm, -spermal, -spermic, and -spermous.

Want to learn more? Check out our Words That Use entries for each of these seven forms.

Examples of sperm-

One example of a scientific term that features the form sperm- is spermic, “of, relating to, or resembling sperm,” which also appears as spermatic.

Sperm- here means, literally, “sperm.” The suffix -ic means “having some characteristics of,” and spermic literally means “having some characteristics of sperm.”

What are some words that use the combining form sperm-?

What are some other forms that spermo- may be commonly confused with?

Break it down!

The suffix -ine is used to denote chemical substances. With this in mind, where can the chemical compound spermine be found in abundance?

How to use sperm in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for sperm (1 of 3)

/ (spɜːm) /

noun plural sperms or sperm

another name for semen
a male reproductive cell; male gamete

Word Origin for sperm

C14: from Late Latin sperma, from Greek; related to Greek speirein to sow

British Dictionary definitions for sperm (2 of 3)

/ (spɜːm) /


British Dictionary definitions for sperm (3 of 3)


n combining form

(in botany) a seedgymnosperm

Derived forms of -sperm

-spermous or -spermal, adj combining form
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

Medical definitions for sperm (1 of 2)

[ spûrm ]

n. pl sperm

A male gamete or reproductive cell; a spermatozoon.

Medical definitions for sperm (2 of 2)



Variant ofspermi-
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Scientific definitions for sperm

[ spûrm ]

The smaller, usually motile male reproductive cell of most organisms that reproduce sexually. Sperm cells are haploid (they have half the number of chromosomes as the other cells in the organism's body). Sperm often have at least one flagellum. During fertilization, the nucleus of a sperm fuses with the nucleus of the much larger egg cell (the female reproductive cell) to form a new organism. In male animals, sperm are normally produced by the testes in extremely large numbers in order to increase the chances of fertilizing an egg. Motile sperm cells produced by some multicellular protist groups (such as the algae), the bryophyte plants, and the seedless vascular plants, require water to swim to the egg cell. In gymnosperms and angiosperms, sperm do not need water for mobility but are carried to the female reproductive organs in the pollen grain. In the cycads and the gingko (both gymnosperms), the sperm are motile and propel themselves down the pollen tube to reach the egg cell. In the conifers and angiosperms, the sperm are not themselves motile but are conveyed to the ovule by the growing pollen tube.

A Closer Look

The human sperm cell is divided into a head that contains the nucleus, a mid-section that contains mitochondria to provide energy for the sperm, and a flagellum that allows the sperm to move. When fertilization occurs, the nucleus and other contents from the sperm cells are drawn into the cytoplasm of the egg, but the mitochondria in the sperm are destroyed and do not survive in the zygote. Since mitochondria contain their own DNA (thought to be a relic from an existence as separate symbiotic organisms), all of the mitochrondrial DNA in humans is thus inherited from the female. The semen produced by the male reproductive tract as a medium for sperm typically contains over 100 million sperm cells, all of which have but one purpose: to fertilize the single available egg.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for sperm


The male sex cell, typically consisting of a head, midpiece, and tail. (See fertilization.)

notes for sperm

Sperm are much smaller than the ova they fertilize.
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.