com·​men·​sal | \ kə-ˈmen(t)-səl How to pronounce commensal (audio) \

Definition of commensal

: of, relating to, or living in a state of commensalism commensal organisms

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Other Words from commensal

commensal noun
commensally \ kə-​ˈmen(t)-​sə-​lē How to pronounce commensal (audio) \ adverb

Did You Know?

Commensal types, be they human or beast, often "break bread" together. When they do, they are reflecting the etymology of commensal, which derives from the Latin prefix com-, meaning "with, together," jointly and the Latin adjective mensalis, meaning "of the table." In its earliest English uses, "commensal" referred to people who ate together, but around 1870, biologists started using it for organisms that have no use for a four-piece table setting. Since then, the scientific sense has almost completely displaced the dining one.

Examples of commensal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Two species, both carnivores to a greater or lesser extent, with different nutritional needs, could have a commensal relationship. James Gorman, New York Times, "The Leftovers Route to Dog Domestication," 7 Jan. 2021 Instead of buying time on the array, Breakthrough Listen is tapping into the data stream while the telescope observes its regular targets—a procedure known as commensal observing. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "How big money is powering a massive hunt for alien intelligence," 10 Sep. 2020 In payment, the plants feed their commensal friends with sugars. Jason Pontin, WIRED, "The 19th-Century Crank Who Tried to Tell Us About the Microbiome," 15 June 2018 This turned out to be because the antibiotics also diminished the numbers of tuft cells in the colon; only they, and not commensal bacteria, are required for norovirus infection. Diana Gitig, Ars Technica, "We’ve found the cells norovirus targets—we just don’t know what they do," 14 Apr. 2018

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

1877, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for commensal

Middle English, from Medieval Latin commensalis, from Latin com- + Late Latin mensalis of the table, from Latin mensa table

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Time Traveler for commensal

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The first known use of commensal was in 1877

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Cite this Entry

“Commensal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for commensal


com·​men·​sal | \ kə-ˈmen(t)-səl How to pronounce commensal (audio) \

Medical Definition of commensal

: of, relating to, or living in a state of commensalism

Other Words from commensal

commensal noun
commensally \ -​sə-​lē How to pronounce commensal (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on commensal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for commensal

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