au·​tot·​o·​my ȯ-ˈtä-tə-mē How to pronounce autotomy (audio)
: reflex separation of a part (such as an appendage) from the body : division of the body into two or more pieces
autotomous adjective
autotomize verb

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Over the course of the study, five of 15 E. marginata decapitated themselves, a behavior known as autotomy. David Shultz, Science | AAAS, 8 Mar. 2021 Economy of arm autotomy in the mesopelagic squid Octopoteuthis deletron. Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 1 Aug. 2012 For scorpions, tail autotomy is even more punishing. Bradley Allf, Smithsonian Magazine, 1 Mar. 2021 Leopard geckos are one of a few lizard species that possess this self-amputation ability, known as autotomy. Jason G. Goldman, Scientific American, 1 Dec. 2017

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

Word History


International Scientific Vocabulary

First Known Use

1887, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of autotomy was in 1887

Dictionary Entries Near autotomy

Cite this Entry

“Autotomy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Mar. 2023.

Medical Definition


au·​tot·​o·​my ȯ-ˈtät-ə-mē How to pronounce autotomy (audio)
plural autotomies
: reflex separation of a part from the body especially in an invertebrate

More from Merriam-Webster on autotomy

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