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When it first entered English in the 19th century, "fissiparous" was concerned with reproduction. In biology, a fissiparous organism is one that produces new individuals by fission; that is, by dividing into separate parts, each of which becomes a unique organism. (Most strains of bacteria do this.) Fissiparous derives from Latin fissus, the past participle of "findere" ("to split"), and parere, meaning "to give birth to or "to produce." Other "parere" offspring refer to other forms of reproduction, including "oviparous" ("producing eggs that hatch outside the body") and "viviparous" ("producing living young instead of eggs"). By the end of the 19th century "fissiparous" had acquired a figurative meaning, describing something that breaks into parts or causes something else to break into parts.
Origin of fissiparous
Latin fissus, past participle of findere + English -parous
First Known Use: 1874
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Medical Dictionary: Definition of "fissiparous"
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