lith·​o·​trip·​sy ˈli-thə-ˌtrip-sē How to pronounce lithotripsy (audio)
plural lithotripsies
: the breaking (as by shock waves or crushing with a surgical instrument) of a calculus in the urinary system into pieces small enough to be voided or washed out

Examples of lithotripsy in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Researchers studied the effects of gentler shockwaves on human tissue for decades to come, and by the 1980s, physicians were using something called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) to pulverize patients’ kidney stones. Miles Klee, Rolling Stone, 30 Aug. 2023 Three liters of cola lavage (10 cases) or drink (7 cases) were initially used, and then endoscopic fragmentation was done for the remnant bezoars by using a lithotripsy basket or a polypectomy snare. Seriously Science, Discover Magazine, 18 Oct. 2013 There are some promising reports of using sound waves (called extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy) for small bladder stones; it is usually used for kidney stones. Dr. Keith Roach, oregonlive, 22 Feb. 2022 The board also accused Apaydin of overprescribing potentially harmful X-rays and other imaging scans — including on a pregnant woman — and excessively using a shock-wave therapy known as lithotripsy to treat kidney stones. Los Angeles Times, 14 July 2021 Thompson also found that Orlando Center for Outpatient Surgery paid Hunter $3 million in the span of about three years through a lease agreement for his lithotripsy machine, according to the lawsuit. Naseem S. Miller,, 27 Nov. 2019 Treatment might involve a procedure called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), which is when sound waves are used to try to break up the stone. Korin Miller, SELF, 29 Oct. 2018 Doctors can also use a procedure called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), a non-invasive technique that uses sound waves to break the stone into bits that can then pass through your system. Macaela MacKenzie, Allure, 22 Feb. 2018 See More

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

Word History


litho- + Greek trîpsis "rubbing, friction" (from trī́bein "to rub, grind, wear down" + -sis -sis) + -y entry 2 — more at throw entry 1

Note: The word lithotripsy was introduced by the French physician Charles Louis Stanislas Heurteloup (1793-1864) as a replacement for the earlier term lithotrity. The change is noted in an article "On the new method of destroying vesical calculi, by means of percussion … from a memoir by Baron Heurteloup," forwarded to the journal The Lancet (1831-32, v. 2 [May 26, 1832], pp. 234-38) by D. O. Edwards of Westminster Hospital, who wrote an introduction, may have had a role in translating the text from French. According to Heurteloup, "The modifications which have been admitted in this operation make the original name [lithotrity] no longer applicable, for its derivation from λιθος, and τετράω [tetráō, erroneously for tetraínō "bore through, perforate"], or τερέω [a form of the same verb], imply that its action is to bore, not to break. The term lithotripsy, from λίθος and τριβω, τριψις, will, I think, be acknowledged as more appropriate to the nature of the operation." A year later Heurteloup published a description of the operation in French (Lithotripsie. Mémoires sur la lithotripsie par percussion, Paris, 1833).

First Known Use

1834, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of lithotripsy was in 1834

Dictionary Entries Near lithotripsy

Cite this Entry

“Lithotripsy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Medical Definition


lith·​o·​trip·​sy ˈlith-ə-ˌtrip-sē How to pronounce lithotripsy (audio)
plural lithotripsies
: the breaking of a calculus (as by shock waves or crushing with a surgical instrument) in the urinary system into pieces small enough to be voided or washed out

called also litholapaxy, lithotrity

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