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See also: Protean





From Ancient Greek Πρωτεύς (Prōteús, literally first), the Greek warden of sea-beasts, renowned for his ability to change shape.[1]


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈpɹəʊ.tɪ.ən/, /pɹəʊˈtiː.ən/
  • (US) enPR: prō'ti-ən, prō-tē'ən, IPA(key): /ˈpɹoʊ.tɪ.ən/, /pɹoʊˈtiː.ən/
  • Audio (US):(file)
    Audio (US):(file)



protean (comparative more protean, superlative most protean)

  1. Exceedingly variable; readily assuming different shapes or forms.
    Synonyms: multiform, polymorphic, polymorphous, shapeshifting; see also Thesaurus:multiform
    An amoeba is a protean animalcule.
    • 1954 February 15, Henry E. Michelson, “The Syndrome of Lupus Erythematosus”, in Modern Medicine, volume 22, number 4, Minneapolis, Minn.: Modern Medicine Publications, Inc., page 96:
      Virus infection of the blood and bone marrow is probably responsible for all forms of the disease. The viral theory of origin accounts for the protean manifestations of the condition.
    • 1980, Gershon Legman, The New Limerick:
      [] the word's protean expressiveness has been observed in a xeroxlore item printed in Robert Anton Wilson's Playboy's Book of Forbidden Words []
    • 1987, William A. Henry III, Time Magazine, volume 129:
      He loved to show off his protean talent.
    • 2020 October 27, Daphne Merkin, “Shifting the Focus From Sylvia Plath’s Tragic Death to Her Brilliant Life”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      In the intervening decades she has become a protean figure, an emblem of different things to different people, depending upon their viewpoint — a visionary, a victim, a martyr, a feminist icon, a schizophrenic, a virago, a prisoner of gender — or, perhaps, a genius, as both Plath and Hughes maintained during her lifetime.
  2. Alternative letter-case form of Protean (of or relating to Proteus).





protean (plural proteans)

  1. (biochemistry) A protein that has been slightly modified by water, dilute acid, or enzymes, but not modified to the extent of a metaprotein.

See also



  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “protean”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.

Further reading