lichen

noun li·chen \ ˈlī-kən , British also ˈli-chən \
Updated on: 13 Dec 2017

Definition of lichen

1 : any of numerous complex plantlike organisms made up of an alga or a cyanobacterium and a fungus growing in symbiotic association on a solid surface (such as on a rock or the bark of trees)
Note: The main body of the lichen, known as the thallus, is formed by fungal filaments which surround the photosynthetic algal or cyanobacterial cells. The lichen is usually described as having a leaflike (foliose), crusty (crustose), or branching shrublike (fruticose) form. Lichens often play an important part in the weathering of rocks and include some that are sources of natural dyes.
2 : any of several skin diseases characterized by the eruptions of flat papules

lichened

play \ˈlī-kənd, British also ˈli-chənd\ adjective

lichenous

play \ˈlī-kə-nəs, British also ˈli-chə-\ adjective

Recent Examples of lichen from the Web

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

Illustration of lichen

Origin and Etymology of lichen

Latin, from Greek leichēn, lichēn, from leichein to lick


LICHEN Defined for English Language Learners

lichen

noun

Definition of lichen for English Language Learners

  • : a type of small plant that grows on rocks and walls


LICHEN Defined for Kids

lichen

noun li·chen \ ˈlī-kən \

Definition of lichen for Students

: a plantlike organism made up of an alga and a fungus growing together

Medical Dictionary

lichen

noun li·chen \ ˈlī-kən \

medical Definition of lichen

1 : any of several skin diseases characterized by the eruption of flat papules; especially : lichen planus
2 : any of numerous complex plantlike organisms made up of an alga and a fungus growing in symbiotic association on a solid surface (as a rock)


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