eco·​sys·​tem | \ ˈē-kō-ˌsi-stəm, ˈe-kō-\
plural ecosystems

Definition of ecosystem

1 : the complex of a community of organisms and its environment functioning as an ecological unit That influx of fresh water alters the ocean's salinity near the seafloor, a factor that influences the makeup of the ecosystems in those places.— Sid Perkins Global warming, if it proceeds as many scientists predict, threatens to undo decades of conservation work and could mean the destruction of the monarch butterfly, the edelweiss, the polar bear and innumerable other species living in fragile ecosystems, an emerging body of scientific evidence suggests.— William K. Stevens
2 : something (such as a network of businesses) considered to resemble an ecological ecosystem especially because of its complex interdependent parts Newspaper layoffs have ripple effects for the entire local news ecosystem because, as the Congressional Research Service noted, television, radio and online outlets often "piggyback on reporting done by much larger newspaper staffs."— David Sirota Lots of Walmart customers are underserved by banks and other financial institutions, [Daniel] Eckert says; the company's experiments with finance-related products and services help customers "not only save money but also have access to a financial ecosystem they were crowded out from."— Rob Walker

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Other Words from ecosystem

ecosystemic \ ˌē-​kō-​si-​ˈste-​mik , ˌe-​kō-​ \ adjective
The Amazon invariably evokes superlatives and often hyperbole. Stock images such as river dimensions and biotic variety are now joined with notions of forest biomass and ecosystemic complexity. — Kent Mathewson The women of Sex and the City occasionally argued, sure, but their ecosystemic purpose—to be there for their friends as they date and search and marry—was always extremely clear. — Megan Garber

Examples of ecosystem in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis argues that platforms are not publishers, and that social media and journalism share space in a larger ecosystem, each with distinct jobs to do. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Why Facebook banned Alex Jones — and why Twitter didn’t," 13 Aug. 2018 Interested in self-driving cars, virtual reality, Amazon delivery drones and other gee-whiz developments? 5G networks are critical for all of that, as well as other remote computing technologies within the growing Internet of Things ecosystem. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, "Smarter devices, faster smartphones will follow from FCC 5G spectrum auctions," 11 July 2018 Botanist Nathanael Pilla will explore milkweeds and other native plants in mid-summer bloom at this 41-acre nature preserve, home to one of the rarest ecosystems in the state. Staff Report, Post-Tribune, "Community news," 14 June 2018 Such a delicate ecosystem, so precisely calibrated, in the end destroyed by Jude’s careful parceling of love, of land. Mark Athitakis,, "A sensational ill wind blows through Lauren Groff's short story collection, 'Florida'," 8 June 2018 That's closer to the core of Oregon's hardware ecosystem than the software and web services companies clustered in downtown Portland. Mike Rogoway,, "Apple quietly opens Oregon engineering lab, poaches from Intel," 30 May 2018 The guild is like a mini-ecosystem designed to support the fruit tree. Judy Buchenot, Naperville Sun, "Suburban Cooks: Recipe for food-producing garden," 20 Apr. 2018 While Apple may offer neater notifications, a more robust app ecosystem, and watch bands that are easier to change, Fitbit shines in two key areas: Fitness features and battery life. Lisa Eadicicco, Time, "Review: Fitbit's New Smartwatch Is the Biggest Threat to the Apple Watch Yet," 4 Apr. 2018 Oh, and of course the fact that a very intricate and delicate ecosystem, including a levee built by the Army Corps of Engineers, keeps the river at bay. Vinny Vella, Courant Community, "Vinny Vella: Let's Be Cautious Before Diving Into Riverfront Development In Hartford," 30 Mar. 2018

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

1935, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for ecosystem

The first known use of ecosystem was in 1935

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English Language Learners Definition of ecosystem

: everything that exists in a particular environment


eco·​sys·​tem | \ ˈē-kō-ˌsi-stəm, ˈe-\

Kids Definition of ecosystem

: the whole group of living and nonliving things that make up an environment and affect each other


eco·​sys·​tem | \ -ˌsis-təm \

Medical Definition of ecosystem

: the complex of a community and its environment functioning as an ecological unit in nature

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More from Merriam-Webster on ecosystem

Spanish Central: Translation of ecosystem

Nglish: Translation of ecosystem for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ecosystem for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about ecosystem

Comments on ecosystem

What made you want to look up ecosystem? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to gather or build up little by little

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