1. Pharmacology. a gelatinous case enclosing a dose of medicine.
  2. Biology.
    1. a membranous sac or integument.
    2. either of two strata of white matter in the cerebrum.
    3. the sporangium of various spore-producing organisms, as ferns, mosses, algae, and fungi.
  3. Botany. a dry dehiscent fruit, composed of two or more carpels.
  4. a small case, envelope, or covering.
  5. Also called space capsule. Aerospace. a sealed cabin, container, or vehicle in which a person or animal can ride in flight in space or at very high altitudes within the earth’s atmosphere.
  6. Aviation. a similar cabin in a military aircraft, which can be ejected from the aircraft in an emergency.
  7. a thin metal covering for the mouth of a corked bottle.
  8. a concise report; brief outline: An appendix to the book contains biographical capsules of the contributors.

verb (used with object), cap·suled, cap·sul·ing.

  1. to furnish with or enclose in or as if in a capsule; encapsulate.
  2. to capsulize.


  1. small and compact.
  2. short and concise; brief and summarized: a capsule report.


  1. a soluble case of gelatine enclosing a dose of medicine
  2. a thin metal cap, seal, or cover, such as the foil covering the cork of a wine bottle
  3. botany
    1. a dry fruit that liberates its seeds by splitting, as in the violet, or through pores, as in the poppy
    2. the spore-producing organ of mosses and liverworts
  4. bacteriol a gelatinous layer of polysaccharide or protein surrounding the cell wall of some bacteria: thought to be responsible for the virulence in pathogens
  5. anatomy
    1. a cartilaginous, fibrous, or membranous envelope surrounding any of certain organs or parts
    2. a broad band of white fibres (internal capsule) near the thalamus in each cerebral hemisphere
  6. See space capsule
  7. an aeroplane cockpit that can be ejected in a flight emergency, complete with crew, instruments, etc
  8. (modifier) in a highly concise forma capsule summary
  9. (modifier) (in the fashion industry) consisting of a few important representative itemsa capsule collection

1650s, from French capsule “a membranous sac” (16c.), from Latin capsula “small box or chest,” diminutive of capsa “box, case, chest” (see case (n.2)). Medicinal sense is 1875; shortened form cap is from 1942. Sense in space capsule is first recorded 1954. As an adjective from 1938. Related: Capsular.


  1. A fibrous, membranous, or fatty sheath that encloses an organ or part, such as the sac surrounding the kidney or the fibrous tissues that surround a joint.
  2. A small soluble container, usually made of gelatin, that encloses a dose of an oral medicine or a vitamin.
  3. The thin-walled, spore-containing structure of mosses and related plants.

  1. A dry dehiscent fruit that develops from two or more carpels, as in the poppy and the cottonwood tree.
  2. The sporangium (the hollow spore-producing structure) of mosses and other bryophytes.
  3. The outer layer of viscous polysaccharide or polypeptide slime with which some bacteria cover their cell walls. Capsules provide defense against phagocytes and prevent the bacteria from drying out.
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