Definition of capsule in US English:



  • 1A small case or container, especially a round or cylindrical one.

    • ‘He is also surprised by his sudden ability to speak numerous languages and the discovery of a capsule containing a Swiss account number on his person.’
    • ‘These tiny cylindrical capsules contain microchips with copper coils.’
    • ‘The capsule, containing Victorian coins and a copy of the Manchester Guardian, dated July 9, 1885, was found hidden in a foundation stone.’
    • ‘The capsule also contained numerous documents and letters.’
    • ‘The second key was to the door of a narrow room containing 16 capsules, eight either side arranged in rows of four, one on top of the other.’
    • ‘Also popular confectionery, comprising a cheap chocolate egg lined with even cheaper white chocolate inside, and inside that a plastic capsule containing a Surprise.’
    • ‘To bring immediate protection to its owner the capsule also contains a fragment of red string from Rachels Tomb in Jerusalem.’
    • ‘He loaded six capsules into the chamber, then clicked it into place, and spun the chamber, readying it for battle.’
    • ‘He grabbed a small needle gun and a cylindrical capsule, a stim, and loaded it into the device.’
    • ‘Male and female starlings were wild-caught, housed in the laboratory, and implanted with either empty silastic capsules or capsules containing testosterone.’
    • ‘The capsule is a strong container containing references and artefacts of today's living.’
    • ‘The popular capsules may be round or square and are designed to dissolve in the wash, releasing the detergent.’
    • ‘His voice sing-songed as dripping wax flowed over capsules containing various types of dangerous apparatuses.’
    • ‘In front of them was an awfully huge machine containing two capsules.’
    • ‘The capsule contains microfilms of the results of a questionnaire that Denes had conducted around the world in the course of her university appearances.’
    • ‘Frozen tissue was ground to a fine powder using a dental amalgam mixer, employing a liquid N 2 chilled copper/plastic capsule containing three steel ball bearings.’
    • ‘These guns fired anti-magic energy, that were kept in bullet like containment capsules.’
    • ‘The capsule containing surgeons' masks and gowns, syringes, gloves, hospital brochures and official reports was buried beneath a courtyard at the weekend.’
    • ‘The capsule contains the details of a safety deposit box in a Swiss bank.’
    • ‘Survivors and rescuers, who helped save 12 people from the crash, buried the capsule, containing victims' personal effects, under a memorial, in Hopes Carr.’
    cassette, magazine, cylinder, canister, container, case, pack, packet, package
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    1. 1.1 A small soluble case of gelatin containing a dose of medicine, swallowed whole.
      • ‘One solution is to teach children to swallow tablets or capsules whole as early as possible.’
      • ‘We went to our local health food store and bought a bottle containing 30 capsules for $17.99.’
      • ‘In China, six million boxes each containing 30 capsules of the drug were sold last year under the brand name ‘Shoubishan’.’
      • ‘He was a very bright, socially sensitive, and insightful young man whose complaint was that he could not swallow pills or capsules.’
      • ‘If capsules or beads from the capsules are not swallowed whole, you could overdose on this medicine.’
      • ‘An inquest in 2000 was told the GP had apparently mixed up near-identical capsules containing vastly different amounts of the drug.’
      • ‘The other advantage is that, since the capsule is swallowed whole, the garlic isn't digested until it reaches the stomach.’
      • ‘She was accidentally given an overdose of the painkiller diamorphine by a GP, apparently in a mix-up over near-identical capsules containing vastly different amounts of the drug.’
      • ‘Fish oil capsules or supplements containing large amounts of para-aminobenzoic acid can elevate blood sugar.’
      • ‘The capsule can be opened and the beads sprinkled on food for youth who have problems swallowing tablets or capsules.’
      • ‘Many people have an easier time swallowing capsules than they do swallowing ordinary tablets.’
      • ‘Simply squeeze the oil from six vitamin E capsules into a small cup, add about 5 teaspoons of black cohosh cream, and stir.’
      • ‘High and low dose tablets or capsules were indistinguishable in all aspects of their outward appearance.’
      • ‘Based on these assumptions, she and other witnesses testified that they believed Tegan had been poisoned with time-released capsules containing caffeine.’
      • ‘Most tablets and some capsules contain fillers, binders, or excipients (substances that help keep the herb dry during manufacturing).’
      • ‘For those patients who have trouble swallowing capsules they recommend a compounding pharmacist prepare a syrup suspension.’
      • ‘If you are taking the sustained-release capsule: swallow the capsule whole.’
      • ‘We haven't seen research comparing fish oil capsules to meals containing fish, so we don't know if they are equivalent.’
      • ‘The number of capsules that you take depends on the strength of the medicine in the capsule and the dose prescribed by your doctor.’
      • ‘He said he was taking the medicine but the capsules looked different.’
      pill, tablet, lozenge, pastille, pilule, drop, caplet, pellet, bolus, troche
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    2. 1.2
      short for space capsule
      module, craft, probe
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  • 2Anatomy
    A tough sheath or membrane that encloses something in the body, such as a kidney, a lens, or a synovial joint.

    • ‘The otic capsule contains, in addition to the otic region of the brain itself, the labyrinth and inner ear.’
    • ‘Primary retroperitoneal tumors may attach to the renal capsule or invade the kidney and, therefore, appear clinically as a primary renal tumor.’
    • ‘These calcifications could also be seen in the joint capsules, in ligaments and tendons.’
    • ‘The prostate gland is enclosed in a prostatic capsule and surrounded by extraperitoneal connective tissue.’
    • ‘Cysts may feel firm as the fluid may be tightly contained within the cyst capsule.’
    1. 2.1Biology A gelatinous layer forming the outer surface of some bacterial cells.
      • ‘These derivitized proteins do many of the same jobs which are performed by the cell wall and capsule in bacteria.’
      • ‘When stressed, certain bacteria form protective capsules that are heat stable.’
      • ‘In its vegetative form, the bacillus has a protective capsule that keeps a human's immune system from killing it.’
      • ‘In certain parasitic bacteria, N-acetylneuraminate lyase also plays a role in the synthesis of a sialic acid polymer component of capsules that help these bacteria evade host defenses.’
      • ‘After his summer at Woods Hole, Rollin joined Avery and Goebel in their work on the immunochemistry of the polysaccharide capsules of pneumonia bacteria.’
  • 3The foil or plastic covering the cork of a wine bottle.

    • ‘Snip off the kitsch plastic bull attached to the capsule and concentrate instead on the tasty, plum and cherry-packed red, made from the garnacha and cariñena grapes, within.’
    • ‘You can buy foil capsules for the top of the bottle and make or buy your own labels, attaching them with a glue stick.’
    • ‘it is an alternative name for the capsule which covers the cork and neck of a wine bottle.’
    • ‘Tesco's Finest wines - denoted only by a neck label and tiny letters on the capsule - are hard to pick out, but this gamey, earthy Gigondas is worth the search provided you drink it with big food.’
    • ‘The change for Tyrconnell creates a refined look achieved through the use of a rich gold foil paper label, and a cork and foil capsule closure.’
    cover, seal, cap, top
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  • 4Botany
    A dry fruit that releases its seeds by bursting open when ripe, such as a pea pod.

    • ‘The fruits are rounded, leathery 1-to 2-inch capsules containing one to three large poisonous seeds.’
    • ‘The akee is to be eaten at the peak of ripeness, just after the capsule splits, an occurrence which is often followed by a race between man and bird to reach the succulent fruit first.’
    • ‘In actuality they are waterproof capsules containing a long radical of germinated seed ready for growth when proper conditions are encountered.’
    • ‘The leaves of the great poplar he climbed in gleamed as though polished; bead-like fruit dangled, inviting young hands to burst the green capsules open and release the fluffy seed.’
    • ‘A developmental process termed dehiscence, in which the fruit ruptures in a predetermined fashion, effects the release of seeds from a dry capsule or other fruit form.’
    seed case, pod, shell, husk, hull, case, sheath
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  • 5Botany
    The spore-producing structure of mosses and liverworts, typically borne on a stalk.

    • ‘Small distinguished M. brittonii from the southeastern United States by its larger leaves, flowers, and capsules.’
    • ‘That is, these mosses have peristome teeth which are formed by walls growing between the rows of cells making up the mouth of the spore capsule.’
    • ‘At this stage the capsules contained either dividing sporocytes or just formed tetrads in both species.’
    • ‘For example, in mosses the sporophyte is a capsule atop a slender stalk that grows out of the top of the gametophyte.’
  • 6as modifier (of a piece of writing) shortened but retaining the essence of the original; condensed.

    ‘a capsule review of the movie’
    • ‘You can find showtimes and capsule reviews in your friendly local City Paper.’
    • ‘Between 1885 and 1900, capsule biographies of late, great Britons were published quarterly in alphabetical order.’
    • ‘Nor does she disappoint with her capsule review of La Broche, the Michelin two-star in Madrid.’
    • ‘To help make your decision-making a little easier, here are 25 capsule reviews that separate the essential cinema from the pretenders to the throne.’
    • ‘In the New York Times I read religiously each capsule biography of a World Trade Center victim.’
    • ‘The book then goes on to present capsule narratives of specific aspects of agricultural production and particular sectors.’
    • ‘With the camp now over, look for a recap and capsule summary of the players who were here.’
    • ‘The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has posted the names of the victims of the latest mass murder in Israel, together with capsule biographies and photographs.’
    • ‘I thought the City Paper capsule review was odd, though, in that it slammed the movie for its ‘liberal’ cliches.’
    • ‘In fact, Walker's capsule summary of the movie captures exactly what I dislike about it!’
    • ‘Yeah, that's about it, nothing too earth shattering in the mix, so I've decided to just sum up my thoughts in a bunch of capsule reviews.’
    • ‘Actually, I didn't dislike it, and would give it this capsule review.’
    • ‘Most popular are restaurants offering capsule descriptions to help you make an informed choice.’
    • ‘The remainder of the introduction provides capsule summaries of the essays, somewhat under-cutting the need to read the book.’
    • ‘For good measure, he also includes capsule reviews of novels derived from comics and some intelligent books about comic art.’
    • ‘Here I'll write some capsule reviews of these books.’
    • ‘They remember when, commuting to work, they read the ‘Portraits of Grief’ in the New York Times' capsule lives of the dead.’
    • ‘Gress's book has many capsule discussions of major thinkers which are very well done, and I learned a lot from these passages.’
    • ‘This text is a capsule review of The Passion Recut, a version of The Passion of The Christ.’
    • ‘Someone asked for a capsule summary of Coraline.’
    1. 6.1 (of a collection of clothing) consisting of a relatively small set of key items.
      • ‘White vinyl sleep coats, goggles and plastic oversized trousers all feature strongly in this capsule menswear collection.’
      • ‘Inspiration draws from urban warriors re-invented into the subversive capsule collection.’
      • ‘He was signed to design a capsule collection that he says will be "fresh and young".’
      • ‘PVC, hot air balloon fabrics and nylon were all featured in this neat capsule collection of black and white womenswear.’


Late Middle English (in the general sense ‘small container’): via French from Latin capsula, diminutive of capsa (see case).