ecosystem

noun
eco·​sys·​tem | \ ˈē-kō-ˌsi-stəm How to pronounce ecosystem (audio) , 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 How to pronounce ecosystemic (audio) , 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

The Environment of Ecosystem

For the now-ubiquitous prefix eco-, we can thank the great German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, who in 1866 coined the term oekologie from the Greek oikos, meaning “home, place to live.” Haeckel was thinking primarily of the “homes” of animals, but by the time the word translated into English in 1875 (initially spelled “oecology”), its meaning had broadened to embrace plant habitats as well. The related term ecosystem was proposed by the British botanist Arthur Tansley, 60 years after one of his own professors first translated Haeckel’s oekologie. It may have been ecosystem, which treats eco- as a prefix to a standard English word, that gave English speakers permission to do the same in coining a host of other terms: ecosphere, ecotour, eco-friendly, and all the rest. Meanwhile, ecosystem itself has been appropriated freely in all kinds of contexts well removed from the natural environment: the “app ecosystem,” the “education ecosystem,” the “startup ecosystem,” the “pop-culture ecosystem,” the “mobile ecosystem,” the “biking ecosystem,” and so forth.

Examples of ecosystem in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Located on the edge of downtown Avalon, Catalina’s only city, the Vons — not exactly a trendy and hip staple of Southern California’s grocer ecosystem — has become an unlikely phenomenon. Gustavo Arellano, latimes.com, "On Catalina Island, one of L.A.’s unofficial ‘food deserts’ parties over a humble Vons," 4 June 2019 Located on the edge of downtown Avalon, Catalina’s only city, the Vons — not exactly a trendy and hip staple of Southern California’s grocer ecosystem — has become an unlikely phenomenon. Gustavo Arellano, San Diego Union-Tribune, "On Catalina Island, one of L.A.'s unofficial ‘food deserts’ parties over a humble Vons," 4 June 2019 Given the more open nature of the Android ecosystem, Microsoft is focusing its efforts on that platform. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Microsoft adds phone notification support, dictation languages to new Windows 10 Insider build," 26 Apr. 2019 While the energy ambitions of tech companies are currently limited, some executives anticipate a future where solar panels, battery storage and even electric vehicles all become part of a smart-home ecosystem. Bradley Olson, WSJ, "Google, Amazon Seek Foothold in Electricity as Home Automation Grows," 27 Jan. 2019 In already fragile health ecosystems, these efforts to ban abortions could cost women their lives. Lauren Rankin, Teen Vogue, "Alabama's Abortion Ban Is Dangerous, and it May Even Be Deadly," 16 May 2019 But, slowly, innovations at the edges of the TV ecosystem are dreaming up new — usually cheaper — ways of repackaging video programming. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Sling TV Has Some New Ideas to Woo Cable Cutters," 28 June 2018 True natural pools clean themselves via a self-cleaning ecosystem within and adjacent to the pool. Hadley Keller, House Beautiful, "Should You Put a Natural Swimming Pool In Your Backyard?," 6 May 2019 Case in point: The beeswax in her velvety lipsticks and dewy blushes helps preserve a delicate ecosystem. Megan Mcintyre, Hana Hong, Marie Claire, "11 New Innovations in Sustainable Beauty from Around the Globe," 18 Apr. 2019

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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Dictionary Entries near ecosystem

ecosphere

ecossaise

ecostate

ecosystem

ecotage

ecoterrorism

ecotone

Statistics for ecosystem

Last Updated

14 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ecosystem

The first known use of ecosystem was in 1935

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More Definitions for ecosystem

ecosystem

noun

English Language Learners Definition of ecosystem

: everything that exists in a particular environment

ecosystem

noun
eco·​sys·​tem | \ ˈē-kō-ˌsi-stəm How to pronounce ecosystem (audio) , ˈe-\

Kids Definition of ecosystem

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

ecosystem

noun
eco·​sys·​tem | \ -ˌsis-təm How to pronounce ecosystem (audio) \

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

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ecosystem

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