noun, singular: leucocyte

Cells of the immune system that defend the body against various infectious diseases and foreign materials.


They are produced and derived from a multipotent cell in the bone marrow, called hematopoietic stem cell. They are called white blood cells because when whole blood is centrifuged, these cells separate into a thin layer that is typically white in color.

There are two types of leucocytes according to the presence of differently staining granules in their cytoplasm. The granulocytes (also known as polymorphonuclear leucocytes) are leucocytes with very distinctive cytoplasmic granules, e.g. neutrophils, basophils and esoniphils. The second is agranulocytes (mononuclear leucocytes), which are characterized by the lack of apparent granules, e.g. lymphocytes, monocytes and macrophages.

Word origin: from Greek leukos - white, and kytos - cell.
Also spelled as: leukocyte.
Related forms: leukocytic (adjective), leukocytoid (adjective)
Synonym: white blood cells
Compare: erythrocytes
See also: blood, granulocytes, agranulocytes

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