What Does “turgid” Mean in Biology?

When biologists describe something as “turgid,” they mean it is swollen, bloated, puffed up or inflated. The word is often used to describe an organ’s distension due to high fluid content. For example: “Mary drank too much water, so her stomach was achy and turgid.” The word comes from the Latin “turgidus,” which means “to be swollen.”

The word turgid is most commonly used in biology when discussing the process of osmosis. Water rushes into a cell’s membrane when it is in a hypotonic state, causing the cell’s membrane to press against the cell wall. Thus, the cell is referred to as turgid. The opposite of a turgid state is a flaccid state.

Turgidity is important for healthy plant cells, as it helps them maintain rigidness. In animal cells, by contrast, turgidity is not important because animal cells do not have cell walls and may burst due to the excess water.

The literary definition of turgid is bombastic, overblown and inflated. The word is most often used to describe someone or something that is overdone or exaggerated. For example, one might describe a lengthy action movie or an exhaustive autobiography as turgid. This usage is inspired by the biological definition of the word.