dia·​pause | \ ˈdī-ə-ˌpȯz How to pronounce diapause (audio) \

Definition of diapause

: a period of physiologically enforced dormancy between periods of activity

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Diapause, from the Greek word diapausis, meaning "pause," may have been coined by the entomologist William Wheeler in 1893. Wheeler's focus was insects, but diapause, a spontaneous period of suspended animation that seems to happen in response to adverse environmental conditions, also occurs in the development of crustaceans, snails, and other animals. Exercising poetic license, novelist Joyce Carol Oates even gave the word a human application in her short story "Visitation Rights" (1988): "Her life, seemingly in shambles, ... was not ruined; ... injured perhaps, and surely stunted, but only temporarily. There had been a diapause, and that was all...."

Examples of diapause in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Outside of the tropics, winter temperatures cause mosquitoes to go into a kind of hibernation called diapause. Todd Nelson, Star Tribune, 22 June 2021 The state, scientifically known as diapause, prevents the embryos from needing critical resources when none is available in its environment. Joel Goldberg, Science | AAAS, 20 Feb. 2020 This video compares the embryos and life spans of killifish who either experienced or skipped diapause, capturing time-lapses and detailed snapshots of their embryonic development. Joel Goldberg, Science | AAAS, 20 Feb. 2020 As the soil dries, the animals enter a state of diapause—or dormancy—that can last for decades, Tim Maret, an ecologist at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, says by email. Liz Langley, National Geographic, 20 Mar. 2019 Meanwhile, toward the equator, warmer temperatures are disrupting other insects’ diapause cycles. Ben Panko, Smithsonian, 15 Feb. 2017 Insects have their own version of this powerful tool: diapause. Ben Panko, Smithsonian, 15 Feb. 2017 See More

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

First Known Use of diapause

1893, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for diapause

Greek diapausis pause, from diapauein to pause, from dia- + pauein to stop

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The first known use of diapause was in 1893

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Cite this Entry

“Diapause.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diapause. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for diapause


dia·​pause | \ ˈdī-ə-ˌpȯz How to pronounce diapause (audio) \

Medical Definition of diapause

: a period of physiologically enforced dormancy between periods of activity

More from Merriam-Webster on diapause

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about diapause


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