al·​tri·​cial al-ˈtri-shəl How to pronounce altricial (audio)
: being hatched or born or having young that are hatched or born in a very immature and helpless condition so as to require care for some time
altricial birds
compare precocial

Examples of altricial in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Plenty of other creatures give birth even sooner, yielding offspring in a more altricial state. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 14 Oct. 2022 Robins, bluebirds, hummingbirds and many other birds are altricial. Jim Robbins, Smithsonian Magazine, 4 Jan. 2022 If birds are born altricial — helpless — clutches tend to be small to accommodate the higher level of care the babies must receive. Jim Williams, Star Tribune, 29 June 2021 That’s because both marmosets and humans have altricial babies, from the Latin for needing nourishment—meaning offspring that can’t take care of themselves even a tiny bit at the beginning. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, 27 Oct. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'altricial.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin altric-, altrix, feminine of altor one who nourishes, from alere to nourish — more at old

First Known Use

1869, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of altricial was in 1869

Dictionary Entries Near altricial

Cite this Entry

“Altricial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

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