n. 1. A diminutive human being. 2. A miniature, fully formed individual believed by adherents of the early biological theory of preformation to be present in the sperm cell.

He felt incapable of spontaneous action: before he could do anything, a tiny homunculus had to generate a flowchart in his brain. If p, then q; if z, then back to a. This homunculus could gnaw a pencil down to a nub, deliberating.

Karen Russell, “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979” from Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Everything about [the architect’s house] seemed evocative and expensive, except the dog, which looked less like a dog than like a panicked homunculus that had been crammed into an ill-fitting shaggy suit.

Elif Batuman, Either/Or

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