Definition of ligand in English:


Syllabification: li·gand
Pronunciation: /ˈligənd, ˈlī-


  • 1An ion or molecule attached to a metal atom by coordinate bonding.
    More example sentences
    • The bonding between the ligand and the metal ion is intermediate between covalent and electrostatic.
    • Ligand field theory, like crystal field theory, concentrates on what happens when ligands split the central metal atom's inner orbitals.
    • Furthermore, the molecular arrangement of the three citrate ligands allows the possible introduction of other catalytic metal centres.
  • 1.1 Biochemistry A molecule that binds to another (usually larger) molecule.
    More example sentences
    • Inside the human body, there are mu, Kappa, and delta opiate receptors, to which the enkephalins and endorphins bind as ligands.
    • They are also biocompatible, and their surfaces can be modified to attach antibodies or other ligands that could be used to target the nanoparticles to specific tissues.
    • It remains to be seen if the surface of the micelle can be used to target macromolecules or ligands of interest, in order to penetrate cells and pinpoint their constituents.


1950s: from Latin ligandus 'that can be tied', gerundive of ligare 'to bind'.

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