Definition of ligand in English:


Pronunciation /ˈliɡənd/ /ˈlɪɡənd/ /ˈlīɡənd/ /ˈlaɪɡənd/

See synonyms for ligand


  • 1Chemistry
    An ion or molecule attached to a metal atom by coordinate bonding.

    ‘The bonding between the ligand and the metal ion is intermediate between covalent and electrostatic.’
    • ‘Ligand field theory, like crystal field theory, concentrates on what happens when ligands split the central metal atom's inner orbitals.’
    • ‘Furthermore, the molecular arrangement of the three citrate ligands allows the possible introduction of other catalytic metal centres.’
    • ‘Special care was taken to include all the hydrogen bonds between the zinc ligands and the surrounding residues.’
    • ‘This binding affinity is related to free enthalpy of the formation of the product of metal and ligand.’
    1. 1.1Biochemistry A molecule that binds to another (usually larger) molecule.
      ‘Inside the human body, there are mu, Kappa, and delta opiate receptors, to which the enkephalins and endorphins bind as ligands.’
      • ‘They are also biocompatible, and their surfaces can be modified to attach antibodies or other ligands that could be used to target the nanoparticles to specific tissues.’
      • ‘It remains to be seen if the surface of the micelle can be used to target macromolecules or ligands of interest, in order to penetrate cells and pinpoint their constituents.’
      • ‘Drugs can be encapsulated into or adsorbed onto the particles, along with cell-specific ligands that can home in on a clinical target.’
      • ‘Steric clashes between the ligand and protein atoms were alleviated with several minimization cycles in vacuum.’


1950s from Latin ligandus ‘that can be tied’, gerundive of ligare ‘to bind’.