Select Page


Noun, plural pancreases or pancreata

1. Compound gland that discharges digestive enzymes into the gut and secretes the hormones insulin and glucagon, vital in carbohydrate (sugar) metabolism, into the bloodstream. (

2. A glandular organ in the digestive system and endocrine system of vertebrates. (

3. A gland near the stomach which secretes a fluid into the duodenum to help with food digestion. The fluid contains protease, carbohydrase and lipase, which breaks down larger molecules into smaller pieces. The pancreas also produces the hormones insulin and glucagon which regulate blood sugar. These hormones are released into the cardiovascular system. (

4. A large lobulated gland that in humans lies in front of the upper lumbar vertebrae and behind the stomach and is somewhat hammer-shaped and firmly attached anteriorly to the curve of the duodenum with which it communicates through one or more pancreatic ducts and that consists of (1) tubular acini secreting digestive enzymes which pass to the intestine and function in the breakdown of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates; (2) modified acinar cells that form islets of Langerhans between the tubules and secrete the hormones insulin and glucagon; and (3) a firm connective-tissue capsule that extends supportive strands into the organ. (

Word origin: From Latinized form of Greek pankreas “sweetbread (pancreas as food), pancreas,” literally “entirely flesh,” from pan– “all” + kreas “flesh”, probably on notion of homogeneous substance of the organ.

Struggling in Biology?

Are You Premed?

Confused about the MCAT? Not sure how to prepare? This guide will show you how