an·​aer·​o·​bic | \ ˌa-nə-ˈrō-bik How to pronounce anaerobic (audio) , ˌan-ˌer-ˈō- How to pronounce anaerobic (audio) \

Definition of anaerobic

1a : living, active, occurring, or existing in the absence of free oxygen anaerobic respiration anaerobic bacteria
b : of, relating to, or being activity in which the body incurs an oxygen debt anaerobic exercise
2 : relating to or induced by anaerobes

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Other Words from anaerobic

anaerobically \ ˌa-​nə-​ˈrō-​bi-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce anaerobic (audio) , ˌan-​ˌer-​ˈō-​ \ adverb

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In Greek, the prefix a- or an- means "not" or "without", and bios means "life". Anaerobic sports and exercise, such as gymnastics, weight lifting, and sprinting, are of high intensity but short duration, so they don't involve much oxygen intake. Anaerobic exercise triggers a different type of cell activity from aerobic exercise. As a result, it doesn't do much for your heart and lungs and it doesn't burn off fat; what it does do is build muscle. Anaerobic bacteria are bacteria that live without oxygen. They're responsible for several nasty conditions, including tetanus, gangrene, botulism, and food poisoning. They often live in deep wounds, so a bad dog bite—or, even worse, a human bite—can be dangerous, since the mouth is full of anaerobic bacteria. But most anaerobic bacteria are harmless, and many are essential to our lives.

Examples of anaerobic in a Sentence

Weight lifting is an anaerobic exercise. Some bacteria are aerobic and others are anaerobic.
Recent Examples on the Web California would need about 100 to 150 more anaerobic digesters and compost facilities like Chula Vista’s to help meet the state target alone, said Chris Seney, Republic Services director and organics operator. San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 Oct. 2021 The report also recommends that MDE encourage counties and private companies to invest in waste diversion, through composting facilities or anaerobic digesters. Christine Condon,, 9 June 2021 LanzaTech has invented a commercial-scale bioreactor that feeds greenhouse gases to a species of anaerobic bacteria; these bacteria metabolize the gas to produce sustainable, carbon sequestering ethanol (CH3-CH2-OH). Erik Kobayashi-solomon, Forbes, 30 Sep. 2021 And the Lighthouse will be partly powered by biogas (a mixture of gases produced from raw materials such as agricultural or food waste) created in Glenmorangie’s own anaerobic digestion plant, from the by-products of distillation. Rachel King, Fortune, 11 Sep. 2021 Ancient wooden artifacts are frequently found in bogs because the wet, anaerobic conditions help preserve them. Livia Gershon, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 Aug. 2021 Last year, scientists detected the signature of what may be phosphine, a potential sign of anaerobic life―or maybe just volcanoes―in the atmosphere, sparking a debate about alien life nearly as heated as the planet’s surface. Chris Wright, Wired, 4 Aug. 2021 Blue Earth will transport the scraps to Quantum Biopower in Southington, an anaerobic digester facility that converts the material into energy and compost. Jesse Leavenworth,, 13 July 2021 On Earth, phosphine is often found in places that host anaerobic life, including lakes, marshes, paddy fields and in the sludge of landfills. Katrina Miller, Wired, 14 July 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'anaerobic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of anaerobic

1877, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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The first known use of anaerobic was in 1877

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Last Updated

16 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Anaerobic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for anaerobic



English Language Learners Definition of anaerobic

: strengthening muscles by forcing them to work very hard for a brief time
: not using oxygen


an·​aer·​o·​bic | \ ˌan-ə-ˈrō-bik; ˌan-ˌa(-ə)r-ˈō- How to pronounce anaerobic (audio) , -ˌe(-ə)r- How to pronounce anaerobic (audio) \

Medical Definition of anaerobic

1a : living, active, or occurring in the absence of free oxygen during heavy exercise anaerobic respiration occurs, pyruvic acid acts as a hydrogen acceptor, and lactic acid builds up in the tissues anaerobic bacteria
b(1) : of, relating to, or being activity in which the body incurs an oxygen debt an anaerobic workout Anaerobic activities like sprinting and weight lifting, on the other hand, burn carbohydrates without using oxygen …— Jane E. Brody, The New York Times, 28 Sept. 1986
(2) : of or relating to the body's ability to incur an oxygen debt Your anaerobic threshold is basically how long you can last without breathing (your lungs working in oxygen debt) while, say, sprinting or going as hard as you can on a bike or in the pool.— Bob Condor, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 22 Sept. 2008
2 : relating to or induced by anaerobes

Other Words from anaerobic

anaerobically \ -​bi-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce anaerobic (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on anaerobic

Britannica English: Translation of anaerobic for Arabic Speakers


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