[muhs-uh l] /ˈmʌs əl/

a tissue composed of cells or fibers, the contraction of which produces movement in the body.
an organ, composed of muscle tissue, that contracts to produce a particular movement.
muscular strength; brawn:
It will take a great deal of muscle to move this box.
power or force, especially of a coercive nature:
They put muscle into their policy and sent the marines.
lean meat.

a necessary or fundamental thing, quality, etc.:
The editor cut the muscle from the article.
verb (used with object), muscled, muscling.
Informal. to force or compel others to make way for:
He muscled his way into the conversation.
to make more :
The dancing lessons muscled her legs.
to strengthen or toughen; put muscle into.
Informal. to accomplish by force:
to muscle the partition into place.
Informal. to force or compel, as by threats, promises, influence, or the like:
to muscle a bill through Congress.
verb (used without object), muscled, muscling.
Informal. to make one’s way by force or fraud (often followed by in or into).
Informal. (of a machine, engine, or vehicle) being very powerful or capable of high-speed performance:
a muscle power saw.
a tissue composed of bundles of elongated cells capable of contraction and relaxation to produce movement in an organ or part
an organ composed of muscle tissue
strength or force
(intransitive; often foll by in, on, etc) (informal) to force one’s way (in)

“having muscles (of a particular type),” 1640s, from muscle (n.).

late 14c., from Middle French muscle “muscle, sinew” (14c.) and directly from Latin musculus “a muscle,” literally “little mouse,” diminutive of mus “mouse” (see mouse (n.)).

So called because the shape and movement of some muscles (notably biceps) were thought to resemble mice. The analogy was made in Greek, too, where mys is both “mouse” and “muscle,” and its comb. form gives the medical prefix myo-. Cf. also Old Church Slavonic mysi “mouse,” mysica “arm;” German Maus “mouse; muscle,” Arabic ‘adalah “muscle,” ‘adal “field mouse.” In Middle English, lacerte, from the Latin word for “lizard,” also was used as a word for a muscle.

Musclez & lacertez bene one selfe þing, Bot þe muscle is said to þe fourme of mouse & lacert to þe fourme of a lizard. [Guy de Chauliac, “Grande Chirurgie,” c.1425]

Hence muscular and mousy are relatives, and a Middle English word for “muscular” was lacertous, “lizardy.” Figurative sense of “force, violence, threat of violence” is 1930, American English. Muscle car “hot rod” is from 1969.


1913, “to accomplish by strength,” from muscle (n.). Related: Muscled; muscling. To muscle in is 1929 in underworld slang.

muscle mus·cle (mŭs’əl)

A body tissue composed of sheets or bundles of cells that contract to produce movement or increase tension. Muscle cells contain filaments made of the proteins actin and myosin, which lie parallel to each other. When a muscle is signaled to contract, the actin and myosin filaments slide past each other in an overlapping pattern. ◇ Skeletal muscle effects voluntary movement and is made up of bundles of elongated cells (muscle fibers), each of which contains many nuclei. ◇ Smooth muscle provides the contractile force for the internal organs and is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Smooth muscle cells are spindle-shaped and each contains a single nucleus. ◇ Cardiac muscle makes up the muscle of the heart and consists of a meshwork of striated cells.

muscular adjective


Related Terms

flex one’s muscles, love-muscle
In addition to the idiom beginning with


Read Also:

  • Muscle-fiber

    noun 1. one of the structural cells of a muscle. muscle fiber n. A cylindrical multinucleate cell composed of myofibrils that contract when stimulated.

  • Muscle fibre

    noun 1. any of the numerous elongated contractile cells that make up striated muscle

  • Musclehead

    noun a person who is muscular and athletic, esp. one with a great interest in bodybuilding; cf. meathead Examples Muscleheads populate Gold’s Gym and World Gym franchises. noun

  • Muscle hemoglobin

    muscle hemoglobin n. See myoglobin.

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