At an archaeological dig, the matrix is the soil surrounding the site. Biologists use the phrase "nuclear matrix" to refer to the material left behind after DNA is extracted from a cell's nucleus. A matrix is an environment or structure in which something originates or develops.

Matrix, related to the Latin word for "mother," originally meant "pregnant animal" or "breeding female" and was later generalized to mean "womb." Today, matrix includes any nurturing or supportive setting or substance usually within the fields of math and the sciences — except in the cinematic trilogy starring Keanu Reeves, of course. Matrixes is an acceptable plural form, but you can use matrices if you want to show off your knowledge of Latin noun endings.

Definitions of matrix
  1. noun
    an enclosure within which something originates or develops (from the Latin for womb)
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    type of:
    enclosure, natural enclosure
    a naturally enclosed space
  2. noun
    the formative tissue at the base of a nail
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    type of:
    animal tissue
    the tissue in the bodies of animals
  3. noun
    the body substance in which tissue cells are embedded
    synonyms: ground substance, intercellular substance
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    type of:
    body substance
    the substance of the body
  4. noun
    (mathematics) a rectangular array of quantities or expressions set out by rows and columns; treated as a single element and manipulated according to rules
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    correlation matrix
    a matrix giving the correlations between all pairs of data sets
    dot matrix
    a rectangular matrix of dots from which written characters can be formed
    square matrix
    a matrix with the same number of rows and columns
    real matrix
    a matrix whose elements are all real numbers
    a matrix formed by interchanging the rows and columns of a given matrix
    diagonal matrix
    a square matrix with all elements not on the main diagonal equal to zero
    a square matrix used to solve simultaneous equations
    Latin square
    a square matrix of n rows and columns; cells contain n different symbols so arranged that no symbol occurs more than once in any row or column
    magic square
    a square matrix of n rows and columns; the first n^2 integers are arranged in the cells of the matrix in such a way that the sum of any row or column or diagonal is the same
    nonsingular matrix
    a square matrix whose determinant is not zero
    singular matrix
    a square matrix whose determinant is zero
    type of:
    an orderly arrangement
  5. noun
    (geology) amass of fine-grained rock in which fossils, crystals, or gems are embedded
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    type of:
    rock, stone
    material consisting of the aggregate of minerals like those making up the Earth's crust
  6. noun
    mold used in the production of phonograph records, type, or other relief surface
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    type of:
    cast, mold, mould
    container into which liquid is poured to create a given shape when it hardens
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