See more synonyms for transistor on
  1. Electronics. a semiconductor device that amplifies, oscillates, or switches the flow of current between two terminals by varying the current or voltage between one of the terminals and a third: although much smaller in size than a vacuum tube, it performs similar functions without requiring current to heat a cathode.
  2. Informal. a transistorized radio.
  1. Informal. transistorized: a transistor radio.

Origin of transistor

First recorded in 1945–50; trans(fer) + (res)istor Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for transistor

camcorders, box, portable, transistor

Examples from the Web for transistor

Contemporary Examples of transistor

  • People had been carrying around music for several years – transistor radios, the Walkman, etc.

    The Daily Beast logo
    From Edison to Jobs

    The Daily Beast

    September 25, 2014

  • At the Namegabe home, the transistor radio, charged with batteries, was the property of the men.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Congo's Anti-Rape Crusader

    Delphine Minoui

    June 28, 2010

Historical Examples of transistor

British Dictionary definitions for transistor


  1. a semiconductor device, having three or more terminals attached to electrode regions, in which current flowing between two electrodes is controlled by a voltage or current applied to one or more specified electrodes. The device is capable of amplification, etc, and has replaced the valve in most circuits since it is much smaller, more robust, and works at a much lower voltageSee also junction transistor, field-effect transistor
  2. informal a transistor radio

Word Origin for transistor

C20: originally a trademark, from transfer + resistor, referring to the transfer of electric signals across a resistor
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 transistor

"small electronic device," 1948, from transfer + resistor, so called because it transfers an electrical current across a resistor. Said to have been coined by U.S. electrical engineer John Robinson Pierce (1910-2002) of Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, N.J., where the device was invented in 1947. It that took over many functions of the vacuum tube. Transistor radio is first recorded 1958.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

transistor in Science


  1. An electronic device that controls the flow of an electric current, most often used as an amplifier or switch. Transistors usually consist of three layers of semiconductor material, in which the flow of electric current across the outer layer is regulated by the voltage or current applied at the middle layer. Having replaced the vacuum tube, transistors are the basis of much modern electronic technology, including the microprocessor. See also logic circuit logic gate.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

transistor in Culture


An electronic device that can work as an amplifier, transforming weak electrical signals into strong ones. It is normally made from silicon or other semiconductors.


The transistor is the basic device used in miniaturized electronic systems, such as portable radios, or as a fast switch in computers.
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.