fis·​sip·​a·​rous fi-ˈsi-p(ə-)rəs How to pronounce fissiparous (audio)
: tending to break or split up into parts : divisive
fissiparous tendencies within a political party
fissiparousness noun

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When it first entered English in the 19th century, "fissiparous" was concerned with reproduction. In biology, a fissiparous organism is one that produces new individuals by fission; that is, by dividing into separate parts, each of which becomes a unique organism. (Most strains of bacteria do this.) Fissiparous derives from Latin fissus, the past participle of "findere" ("to split"), and parere, meaning "to give birth to or "to produce." Other "parere" offspring refer to other forms of reproduction, including "oviparous" ("producing eggs that hatch outside the body") and "viviparous" ("producing living young instead of eggs"). By the end of the 19th century "fissiparous" had acquired a figurative meaning, describing something that breaks into parts or causes something else to break into parts.

Examples of fissiparous in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web This isn’t to deny that a fight over principle is in many ways admirable, or that the fissiparous tendencies demonstrated by conservatives in the last few years have been driven by big, important changes in wider political and social conditions. Gerard Baker, WSJ, 9 Jan. 2023 The abolition movement had reached its fissiparous stage, splitting into warring factions, a development that Child resisted. James Marcus, WSJ, 4 Nov. 2022 When the year began, Nicholas II was clinging to his throne, Lenin was an exile in Zurich and the Bolsheviks were just one faction in a fissiparous revolutionary underground. Andrew Stuttaford, WSJ, 29 Sep. 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fissiparous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from New Latin fissiparus "reproducing by fission," from Latin fissus, past participle of findere "to split, cleave" + -i- -i- + -parus -parous — more at bite entry 1

First Known Use

1874, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of fissiparous was in 1874


Dictionary Entries Near fissiparous

Cite this Entry

“Fissiparous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jul. 2024.

Medical Definition


fis·​sip·​a·​rous fis-ˈip-ə-rəs How to pronounce fissiparous (audio)
: producing new biological units or individuals by fission
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