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nematocyst Syllabification: nem·a·to·cyst
Pronunciation: /ˈnemətəˌsist/ /niˈmatə-/

Definition of nematocyst in English:


A specialized cell in the tentacles of a jellyfish or other coelenterate, containing a barbed or venomous coiled thread that can be projected in self-defense or to capture prey.
Example sentences
  • Casually touching many cnidarians will make it clear how they got their name when their nematocysts eject barbed threads tipped with poison.
  • If collar cells and spicules are defining characteristics of the Phylum Porifera, then nematocysts define cnidarians.
  • As a feeding adaptation, the anemones are equipped with stinging cells called nematocysts, which are triggered as soon as a tentacle touches a living organism, paralyzing it upon contact.


Late 19th century: from nemato- 'of threadlike shape' + cyst.

Definition of nematocyst in:
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