lith·​o·​sphere ˈli-thə-ˌsfir How to pronounce lithosphere (audio)
: the solid part of a celestial body (such as the earth)
specifically : the outer part of the solid earth composed of rock essentially like that exposed at the surface, consisting of the crust and outermost layer of the mantle, and usually considered to be about 60 miles (100 kilometers) in thickness
lithospheric adjective

Examples of lithosphere in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Earth's upper mantle is separated into two layers, the lithosphere and the asthenosphere, though the lithosphere also contains Earth's crust. Matt Benoit, Discover Magazine, 19 Dec. 2023 Mars’s lithosphere, the study shows, is about 500 kilometers in thickness, compared with Earth’s approximately 250-kilometer-thick lithosphere. Jonathan O'Callaghan, Scientific American, 22 July 2021 There are still more puzzles—such as why Ireland’s lithosphere is thicker than Britain’s. Elise Cutts, Discover Magazine, 29 June 2023 Cool, thick lithosphere is mechanically stronger than warm, thin lithosphere, which could explain the Emerald Isle’s puzzling paucity of earthquakes. Elise Cutts, Discover Magazine, 29 June 2023 There are four tectonic plates, massive slabs of rock made of up Earth's lithosphere, that interact in Turkey. Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 19 Feb. 2023 Such a thick lithosphere, Khan says, could be why Mars lacks plate tectonics today. Jonathan O'Callaghan, Scientific American, 22 July 2021 There are four main reservoirs of oxygen on Earth: the terrestrial biosphere (green), marine biosphere (blue), lithosphere (Earth’s crust, brown), and atmosphere (grey). The Conversation,, 26 Aug. 2019 The larger the slab of lithosphere sinking at a subduction zone, the faster the plate moves, and the stronger the seismic activity. Plates meet. National Geographic, 27 June 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lithosphere.' 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 German Lithosphäre, from litho- litho- + -sphäre -sphere

Note: Lithosphäre was introduced by the Austrian geologist Eduard Suess (1831-1914) in Die Entstehung der Alpen (Vienna, 1875), p. 158.

First Known Use

1887, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of lithosphere was in 1887

Dictionary Entries Near lithosphere

Cite this Entry

“Lithosphere.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: the outer part of the solid earth consisting of the crust and part of the mantle

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