Definition of embryo in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɛmbrɪəʊ/

noun (plural embryos)

1An unborn or unhatched offspring in the process of development.
Example sentences
  • No one has yet converted a single blastomere from an eight-cell embryo into a stem cell line.
  • The most common mutant phenotype was an embryo with a polar body near one end and the development of one or two spindles in the middle.
  • Double fertilization of egg cell and central cell initiates development of the diploid embryo and the triploid endosperm, respectively.
1.1An unborn human, especially in the first eight weeks from conception, after implantation but before all the organs are developed. Compare with fetus.
Example sentences
  • They worry that people will be tested against their will and that clinicians will even test embryos and fetuses.
  • If you've got concerns about abortion, morally or ethically or whatever, if the embryo has implanted in the uterus, emergency contraception won't work.
  • The zygote divides again and again as it grows in the female's uterus, maturing over the course of the pregnancy into an embryo, a fetus, and finally a newborn baby.
2 Botany The part of a seed which develops into a plant, consisting (in the mature embryo of a higher plant) of a plumule, a radicle, and one or two cotyledons.
Example sentences
  • During the autocatalytic cycle of growth and reproduction of higher plants, the embryo in the seed grows, under suitable conditions, to form a plant with leaves and roots.
  • The embryo matures and the seed accumulates storage products, acquires desiccation tolerance, and loses water.
  • Another type of apomictic development has been reported to occur in the gymnosperm Cupressus dupreziana, where embryos develop from unreduced pollen grains.
3A thing at a rudimentary stage that shows potential for development: a simple commodity economy is merely the embryo of a capitalist economy [as modifier]: an embryo central bank
More example sentences
  • He goes as long-awaited plans to create a new hub for Swindon are still at the embryo stage.
  • The design is still at its embryo stage, as it should be for an idea competition.
rudimentary version, germ, nucleus, seed, root, source;
rudiments, basics;
beginning, start, basis, mainspring


in embryo

At a rudimentary stage with the potential for development: the nations of modern Europe can be discerned in embryo by the end of the first millennium
More example sentences
  • The government has fiercely denied opposition claims that it has created an army in embryo, without parliament's consent.
  • To Tocqueville, this was popular sovereignty in embryo.
  • We may think we've missed it, but as Smith talks us through her ideas, which are presented with great fluency and wit, her thesis takes shape and, in embryo at least, is persuasive.



Pronunciation: /ˈɛmbrɪən(ə)l/
Pronunciation: /ɛmˈbrʌɪən(ə)l/
Example sentences
  • Primitive neuroectodermal tumors are rare undifferentiated sarcomas that are believed to develop from embryonal migrating cells of the neural crest.
  • Using this endoscopic approach, the neurosurgeon then resected most of an embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, including the portion that was impinging on the boy's optic nerves and carotid arteries.
  • In sections hybridized with the antisense riboprobe a specific signal was detected in the outermost layer of the embryonal cortex.


Example sentences
  • They were used to create multicellular structures called embryoid bodies, which have some of the characteristics of early embryos and the beginnings of differentiated tissue.
  • What is extraordinary is that the embryoid bodies seem to produce spontaneously the tissue and environment conducive for sperm and egg development in quite a short time in culture.
  • In approximately 10% of the embryoid bodies, the researchers found small groups of cells that were spontaneously contracting, just as do the cells that develop into heart tissue in an embryo.


Late Middle English: via late Latin from Greek embruon 'fetus', from em- 'into' + bruein 'swell, grow'.

  • This comes via late Latin from Greek embruon ‘foetus’, from em- ‘into’ and bruein ‘swell, grow’.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: em¦bryo

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