Definition of protean in English:


Pronunciation /prəʊˈtiːən//ˈprəʊtɪən/


  • 1Tending or able to change frequently or easily.

    ‘it is difficult to comprehend the whole of this protean subject’
    • ‘Nature is more protean than Bacon dreamed: Proteus merely assumes different shapes; nature shifts between whole realities.’
    • ‘We are all in search of ways of approaching this protean subject; neither metaphor alone nor purely mechanistic interpretations take us very far.’
    • ‘Just as the actor animated different trappings in different situations in the same play, and in different plays at different times, the soul animated the protean body through all its changes.’
    • ‘Such contradictions generally enhance the text, for they present an attractive protean self, one willing to learn and change when confronted with new knowledge.’
    • ‘The emergent self is protean, shifting, cunning, humorous, unencumbered, sometimes angry, but equally capable of accepting its own absurdity and inconsequentiality.’
    • ‘They begin by turning the motion on its head, asserting that a reactive foreign policy dangerously ignores the reality of a post cold war world in which the lines of conflict have become protean and subject to unpredictable change.’
    • ‘But if reality has become porous and unstable, Rushdie is not simply celebrating the protean, metamorphic nature of things.’
    • ‘This internally inconsistent narrative derives its protean fluidity from the projection and reception of the multiplicity of the gendered and racialized discourses of her and our own time.’
    • ‘Becky, as director and actor have conceived her, is a protean character who seems to alter with each costume change.’
    • ‘Its capacity to straddle different genre classifications is mirrored in the protean life that it has enjoyed through stage, film and musical adaptations.’
    • ‘This is not an easy task, not least because the distance on their subjects that historians value is not realizable when examining a subject as protean as globalization, and one that is both now expressing itself and still changing.’
    • ‘Such values are flexible, protean in nature, varying even from film to film.’
    • ‘George Orwell once described England as a protean creature, stretching ceaselessly into the past, forever changing, forever the same.’
    • ‘He never lets his learning cloud his enthusiasm for this wide and protean subject and his writing shares the awe of the poets who preceded him on this journey.’
    • ‘However, I am pursuing a different sense of the protean term Machiavellian in what follows.’
    • ‘Sexuality appears to be a protean, shifting concept because it is instantiated at multiple levels.’
    • ‘It is a protean creature, an uncertain character capable of fluctuating under pressure.’
    • ‘The boundaries of its, and its historians ’, concerns have been flexible, even protean.’
    • ‘The differential diagnosis of the mild seroconversion illness is protean and, without a high index of suspicion and a history indicating relevant risk behaviours or factors, the diagnosis may be missed.’
    • ‘His respect for ‘evidence’ is both an acknowledgment of its multifaceted and protean nature and an expression of gratitude for the materials it supplies.’
    ever-changing, variable, changeable, mutable, kaleidoscopic, erratic, quicksilver, inconstant, inconsistent, unstable, unsteady, shifting, uneven, unsettled, fluctuating, chameleon-like, chameleonic
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    1. 1.1 Able to do many different things; versatile.
      ‘protean thinkers who scan the horizons of work and society’
      • ‘Rembrandt was a protean artist, creating a Shakespearean range of subject and mood in his paintings, drawings and etchings.’
      • ‘Augustine is a protean thinker, a man whose major works range so widely as to defy the summary and commentary we can present for Athanasius.’
      • ‘Born in 1948, he remains for many the heir to Gabin and Belmondo, a versatile, protean actor whose rugged looks are belied by his sensitivity and talent.’
      • ‘These served to introduce a group of works from the 1940s, mainly not exhibited at the Addison, but characteristic of the protean, notoriously late blooming painter's many guises.’
      • ‘His protean ability to assume different roles in his poems is often described as theatrical.’
      versatile, adaptable, flexible, all-round, multifaceted, multitalented, many-sided, resourceful, malleable
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Late 16th century: from Proteus + -an.