bio·​phil·​ia | \ ˌbī-ō-ˈfi-lē-ə How to pronounce biophilia (audio) , -ˈfēl-yə \

Definition of biophilia

: a hypothetical human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature : a desire or tendency to commune with nature Biophilia is the term coined by the Harvard naturalist Dr. Edward O. Wilson to describe what he saw as humanity's "innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes," and to be drawn toward nature, to feel an affinity for it, a love, a craving.— Natalie Angier Do human beings have within them an innate sense of connection to other forms of life? If so, can this natural feeling, this "biophilia," both enhance our respect for ourselves as human and reinforce our sense of obligation to treat other forms of life with loving care?— T. H. Watkins

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Did You Know?

The term "biophilia" was popularized by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in the 1960s. In his work, he used the word (from bio-, meaning "life," and -philia, meaning "friendly feeling toward") to describe the biological drive toward self-preservation. In the late 1970s, American biologist Edward O. Wilson extended the word's meaning, seeing it as the perfect word for "the rich, natural pleasure that comes from being surrounded by living organisms." Recently, "biophilia" has been in the news as the title of Icelandic singer Björk's latest project, a multimedia production that (according to the website for the Manchester International Festival) "celebrates how sound works in nature, exploring the infinite expanse of the universe, from planetary systems to atomic structure."

Examples of biophilia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The design will include elements of biophilia: a green wall, draping plants and a network of custom planters throughout the property. Nancy Sarnoff, Houston Chronicle, "Montrose mixed-use development breaks ground," 10 Feb. 2020 Spaces need to have a sense of biophilia, where the natural world is reflected within the classroom. Kate Mcgregor, ELLE Decor, "Classroom Design Is the Next Frontier in Universal Design," 23 Oct. 2019 Calabrese said that houseplants are an example of biophilia in action. Anne Nickoloff,, "‘Plants for everyone’: Urban Planting Cleveland opens this weekend," 29 Aug. 2019 While biomimicry seeks solutions to human challenges by emulating nature, biophilia fosters connections with nature. Diana Budds, Curbed, "This suburban utopia is all about worshipping nature," 14 June 2019 While the concept of biophilia is debatable, the effects of the phenomenon are not; researchers noted that simply staring at an image of natural scenery for 40 seconds was enough to trigger the brain into a more relaxed state. NBC News, "Why natural scenery improves your mood and makes you more productive," 2 Apr. 2018 One of the most popular of these is called the biophilia hypothesis, which argues that humans have an innate desire to seek connections with nature. Ben Tobin, USA TODAY, "Desk, swivel chair, trees: Why companies are moving the office outdoors," 28 June 2018 The Evidence One of the most recent studies, from the Journal of Environmental Psychology, noted a phenomenon that may stem from biophilia — human beings’ natural desire to be connected with nature. NBC News, "Why natural scenery improves your mood and makes you more productive," 2 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'biophilia.' 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 biophilia

1979, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for biophilia

New Latin

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The first known use of biophilia was in 1979

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Cite this Entry

“Biophilia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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