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noun, plural: lipids

A fatty or waxy organic compound that is readily soluble in nonpolar solvent (e.g. ether) but not in polar solvent (e.g water), and whose major biological functions involve energy storage, structural component of cell membrane, and cell signaling


A lipid is a fatty organic compound that is insoluble in polar solvents (e.g. water) but soluble in nonpolar solvents (e.g. ether). Its major functions are for energy storage, as a structural component of the cell membrane, and for cell signaling. It is usually made up of glycerol or fatty acid units, with or without other molecules. Many lipids are amphiphilic, i.e. they have both hydrophobic and hydrophilic components.

Lipids are one of the four major groups of biomolecules (the others, nucleic acids, proteins, and carbohydrates). Examples of lipids are waxes, oils, sterols, cholesterol, fat-soluble vitamins, monoglycerides, diglycerides, triglycerides (fats), and phospholipids.

Fatty acids (including fats) are a subgroup of lipids, hence, it will be inaccurate to consider the terms synonymous.

Word origin: French lipide » Greek lipos ("fat")

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