Very variable; easily changing; or continually changing. Protean is not to be confused with protein (a member of a large group of chemicals necessary to and found in all living things). Protean refers to Proteus, the mythologic master of disguise. According to the ancient Greeks, Proteus was the shepherd who looked after Poseidon's sea creatures. Proteus had the gift of prophecy. Determined not to share his knowledge, he changed his shape to avoid attention. The only way to learn what he knew was to sneak up behind him during his nap and hold him (while he frantically changed from shape to shape) until he revealed what he knew. Protean means as mutable and adaptable as the mythological shepherd. For example, the ways in which AIDS may present are so protean that its is reminiscent of syphilis (which was known as "the great imposter").
* * *
Changeable in form; having the power to change body form, like the ameba. [G. Proteus, a god having the power to change his form]

* * *

pro·te·an 'prōt-ē-ən, prō-'tē- adj displaying great diversity or variety <a disease with \protean clinical manifestations>
pro·te·an 'prōt-ē-ən n any of various insoluble primary protein derivatives that result from a slight modification of the protein molecule esp. by the action of water, very dilute acids, or enzymes

* * *

pro·te·an (proґte-ən) [Gr. Prōteus an ocean deity able to appear in many different forms] assuming different shapes; changeable in form.

Medical dictionary. 2011.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Protean — Pro te*an, a. 1. Of or pertaining to Proteus; characteristic of Proteus. Protean transformations. Cudworth. [1913 Webster] 2. Exceedingly variable; readily assuming different shapes or forms; as, an am[oe]ba is a protean animalcule. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • protean — I adjective alterable, assuming different forms, changeable, changeful, everchanging, fluid, kaleidoscopic, metamorphic, mobile, modifiable, movable, multiform, multiphase, mutable, nonuniform, omniform, permutable, polymorphic, polymorphous,… …   Law dictionary

  • Protean — 1590s, from Gk. Proteus, sea god (son of Oceanus and Tethys) who could change his form; his name is lit. first, from protos first (see PROTO (Cf. proto )) …   Etymology dictionary

  • protean — *changeable, changeful, variable, mutable …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • protean — meaning ‘able to change form, versatile’ (after the ancient mythical figure Proteus), is normally pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, and is spelt with a small initial p …   Modern English usage

  • protean — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ tending or able to change or adapt; variable or versatile. ORIGIN from the Greek sea god Proteus, who was able to change shape at will …   English terms dictionary

  • protean — protean1 [prōt′ē ən, prō tē′ən] adj. 1. [P ] of or like Proteus 2. very changeable; readily taking on different shapes and forms protean2 [prōt′ē ən] n. [ PROTE(IN) + AN] any of a group of insoluble derived proteins that are the first products of …   English World dictionary

  • protean — adjective /ˈprəʊ.tɪ.ən,prəʊˈtiː.ən,ˈproʊ.tɪ.ən,proʊˈtiː.ən/ a) Exceedingly variable; readily assuming different shapes or forms. An amoeba is a protean animalcule. b) Of or pertaining to Proteus; characteristic of Proteus. His plots and protean… …   Wiktionary

  • protean — [[t]pro͟ʊtiən[/t]] ADJ GRADED: usu ADJ n If you describe someone or something as protean, you mean that they have the ability to continually change their nature, appearance, or behaviour. [FORMAL] He is a protean stylist who can move from blues… …   English dictionary

  • protean — adjective 1) the protean nature of mental disorders Syn: ever changing, variable, changeable, mutable, kaleidoscopic, inconstant, inconsistent, unstable, shifting, unsettled, fluctuating, fluid, wavering, vacillating, mercurial, volatile;… …   Thesaurus of popular words

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.