AskDefine | Define amoeba

Dictionary Definition

amoeba n : naked freshwater or marine or parasitic protozoa that form temporary pseudopods for feeding and locomotion [syn: ameba] [also: amoebae (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  • (US) /əˈmiːbə/


  1. A genus of unicellular protozoa that moves by means of temporary projections called pseudopodia.


a genus of unicellular protozoa

Extensive Definition

Amoeba (sometimes amœba or ameba, plural amoebae) is a genus of protozoa that moves by means of pseudopods, and is well-known as a representative unicellular organism. The word amoeba or ameba is variously used to refer to it and its close relatives, now grouped as the Amoebozoa, or to all protozoa that move using pseudopods, otherwise termed amoeboids.


The amoeba was first discovered by August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof in 1755. Early naturalists referred to Amoeba as the Proteus animalcule after the Greek god Proteus who could change his shape. The name "amibe" was given to it by Bory de Saint-Vincent,M1, from the Greek amoibè, meaning change.

Habitat and uses

Amoeba itself is found in decaying vegetation, in fresh and salt water, wet soil, and animals. Adjusting the tonicity of the cytoplasm can also damage the digestive enzymes used in phagocytosis, allowing the amoeba to ingest food but not extract energy, resulting in death.

Amoebic cysts

In environments which are potentially lethal to the cell, an amoeba may become dormant by forming itself into a ball and secreting a protective membrane to become a microbial cyst. The cell remains in this state until it encounters more favourable conditions. While in cyst form the amoeba will not replicate and may die if unable to emerge for a lengthy period of time.

Marine amoeba

Marine amoeba lack contractile vacuoles and their enzymes and organelles are not damaged by the salt water found in seas, oceans, salt swamps, salty rivers and ponds.

In popular culture

  • Tom Robbins states in the preface to his 1976 novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues that amoebas are cool because they reproduce by binary fission, so the first amoeba is still alive to this day. The first sentence of the book is "Amoebae have no fossils."
  • In the 1984 computer game Boulder Dash, Rockford, the main character, interacts frequently with a constantly-growing green amoeba.
  • The contemporary British Poet, John Hegley, has a poem entitled Amoeba.
  • The Adolescents have a song titled "Amoeba"
  • The Powerpuff Girls and Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z have a trio of villains called The Amoeba Boys, who are shown to be lacking in their capacity for true villainous activity (as in one episode, where they steal an orange from a street vendor, and then give it back) compared with world-domination-centered villains such as Mojo Jojo. This seems to be explained by their lack of brain (being single-celled organisms).
  • The 48th produced episode of the classic Star Trek series (The Immunity Syndrome) featured an 11,000-mile (~17 700 km) wide amoeba threatening not only the life of Captain Kirk and his crew, but all life throughout the galaxy.
  • In the fourth installment of The Legend of Zelda (Ocarina of Time), the dungeon boss of the Water Temple is a giant Amoeba that fuses with the water around it.
  • Jon Scieszka's book, Science Verse, had a poem called ''Amoeba where are you aneba"
  • In the second epidode of Futurama, Bender says to Fry that he hasn't "touched his amoeba" in a sushi like restaurant. The amoeba is depicted as a large, green, jelly-like blob.
amoeba in Arabic: أميبا (كائن دقيق)
amoeba in Bosnian: Amebe
amoeba in Bulgarian: Амеба
amoeba in Danish: Amøbe
amoeba in German: Amöbe
amoeba in Estonian: Amööb
amoeba in Spanish: Ameba
amoeba in French: Amibe
amoeba in Korean: 아메바
amoeba in Hindi: अमीबा
amoeba in Italian: Amoeba
amoeba in Hebrew: אמבה
amoeba in Lithuanian: Amebos
amoeba in Dutch: Amoebe
amoeba in Japanese: アメーバ
amoeba in Norwegian: Amøbe
amoeba in Norwegian Nynorsk: Amøbe
amoeba in Polish: Ameby
amoeba in Albanian: Ameba
amoeba in Serbian: Амеба
amoeba in Finnish: Amebat
amoeba in Thai: อะมีบา
amoeba in Ukrainian: Амеба
amoeba in Chinese: 變形蟲

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Euglena, adenovirus, aerobe, aerobic bacteria, anaerobe, anaerobic bacteria, animalcule, bacillus, bacteria, bacterium, bug, coccus, colon bacillus, diatom, disease-producing microorganism, dyad, echovirus, enterovirus, filterable virus, flagellate, fungus, germ, gram-negative bacteria, gram-positive bacteria, microbe, microorganism, microspore, microzoa, mold, monad, nematode, nonfilterable virus, paramecium, pathogen, picornavirus, protozoa, protozoon, reovirus, rhinovirus, rickettsia, salmonella, saprophyte, spirillum, spirochete, spore, sporozoon, staphylococcus, streptococcus, tetrad, triad, trypanosome, vibrio, virus, volvox, vorticellum, zoospore
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