bio·​ac·​cu·​mu·​la·​tion ˌbī-(ˌ)ō-ə-ˌkyü-m(y)ə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce bioaccumulation (audio)
: the accumulation over time of a substance and especially a contaminant (such as a pesticide or heavy metal) in a living organism
bioaccumulate verb, transitive + intransitive
bioaccumulated; bioaccumulating; bioaccumulates
Oysters, like other bivalves, are sessile organisms that are continually filtering water, and they often bioaccumulate toxins … David C. Metzger
The chemical inertness of these compounds makes them useful for a variety of consumer and industrial products, but this property also means the compounds are persistent and can bioaccumulate. Stephen K. Ritter
bioaccumulative adjective
Persistent bioaccumulative pollutants pose the greatest chemical threat to sustainability. Science

Examples of bioaccumulation in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Through the process of bioaccumulation in living organisms, PFAS chemicals and other micropollutants can build up over time, multiplying their harmful effects. Cameron Pugh, The Christian Science Monitor, 5 Mar. 2024 So killer whales are some of the most toxic mammals on the planet, period, because of this bioaccumulation. Dana Taylor, USA TODAY, 5 Jan. 2024 As apex predators, killer whales are subject to countless threats including pollution, bioaccumulation of microplastics, food shortages, habitat shrinking, and climate change. Krista Simmons, Sunset Magazine, 29 Dec. 2023 Pollutants like these can become more prominent going up the food chain through a process called bioaccumulation. Devika Rao, The Week, 7 July 2023 Now Thompson is looking for other examples of bioaccumulation. Jeff Wheelwright, Discover Magazine, 6 Aug. 2017 This concept of bioaccumulation was later applied to other pollutants such as chemical pesticides. Catherine Meyers, Discover Magazine, 17 July 2020 And if that fish is consumed by another, the PFAS are moved up the food chain in a process known as bioaccumulation, Strom said. Laura Schulte, Journal Sentinel, 14 Feb. 2023 Through this process, called bioaccumulation, the heavy metals stick around and increase at each trophic level. Doug Johnson, Ars Technica, 19 Oct. 2022

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

Word History

First Known Use

1956, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bioaccumulation was in 1956

Dictionary Entries Near bioaccumulation

Cite this Entry

“Bioaccumulation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Medical Definition


bio·​ac·​cu·​mu·​la·​tion ˌbī-ō-ə-ˌkyü-myə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce bioaccumulation (audio)
: the accumulation of a substance (as a pesticide) in a living organism
bioaccumulate verb
bioaccumulated; bioaccumulating
bioaccumulative adjective
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!