osmosis

noun

os·​mo·​sis äz-ˈmō-səs How to pronounce osmosis (audio)
äs-
1
: movement of a solvent (such as water) through a semipermeable membrane (as of a living cell) into a solution of higher solute concentration that tends to equalize the concentrations of solute on the two sides of the membrane
2
: a process of absorption or diffusion (see diffusion sense 3a) suggestive of the flow of osmotic action
especially : a usually effortless often unconscious assimilation (see assimilation sense 4)
learned a number of languages by osmosis Roger Kimball

Example Sentences

She seems to learn foreign languages by osmosis.
Recent Examples on the Web But FanDuel hopes viewers who tune in to watch sports personalities like Adams and Charania will stick around for the horse racing that follows and become fans by osmosis. Bypaolo Confino, Fortune, 28 Oct. 2022 The Gadsden Water Works, which draws from the Coosa for its source water near the sampling location, has installed a large-scale reverse-osmosis filter to remove PFAS from its drinking water before reaching its customers. Dennis Pillion | Dpillion@al.com, al, 23 Oct. 2022 But often traumas, although people never talked about them, have trickled down through the branches of your family tree, almost by osmosis. Robin Rose Parker, Washington Post, 18 Oct. 2022 Two reverse-osmosis machines should arrive Friday to remove salt from the water at the two treatment plants that are below the planned sill, parish President Kirk Lepine said at the Corps' news conference. Janet Mcconnaughey, ajc, 28 Sep. 2022 Far too many Boston wannabes, especially among the forwards, have shown up at rookie camp in recent years looking and playing as if getting to the NHL is simply a function of institutional osmosis. Kevin Paul Dupont, BostonGlobe.com, 10 Sep. 2022 Legal experts have told media outlets the law is destined to fail under scrutiny in lower courts, but right-wing bills are accelerating throughout the country via a toxic osmosis. Sidney Fussell, The New Republic, 26 July 2022 Her school aims to help others who don’t grow up learning etiquette by osmosis avoid missteps. Callum Borchers, WSJ, 8 Sep. 2022 Fish consume water through a process known as osmosis. Evan Hecht, USA TODAY, 26 July 2022 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

earlier osmose in same sense + -osis, after endosmosis, exosmosis; osmose generalized from endosmose "passage through a membrane from a region of lower to a region of higher concentration" and exosmose "passage through a membrane from a region of higher to a region of lower concentration" (later endosmosis, exosmosis), both borrowed from French, from end- end-, ex- ex- entry 2 + -osmose, from Greek ōsmós "push, thrust" (from ōthéō, ōtheîn "to push, thrust" + -(s)mos, resultative noun suffix) + French -ose -osis; ōthéō, ōtheîn probably going back to Indo-European *h2u̯odhh1-, iterative derivative of *h2u̯edhh1- "thrust," whence also Sanskrit ávadhīt "(s/he) has struck, has slain"

Note: The terms endosmose and exosmose were introduced by the French physician and physiologist Henri Dutrochet (1776-1847) in L'agent immédiat du mouvement vital dévoilé dans sa nature et dans son mode d'action, chez les végétaux et chez les animaux (Paris, 1826), p. 126: "Ainsi, lorsque c'est le plus dense des deux fluides qui est dans la cavité, l'eau y est introduite par l'action que j'ai nommée endosmose; lorsqu'au contraire c'est le plus dense des deux fluides qui est hors de la cavité, le fluide le moins dense, qui est au dedans, est poussé au dehors par une action inverse que je nommerai exosmose.[footnote] (1) Mot dérivé de ἐξ, dehors, et de ωσμος, impulsion." ("Thus when the denser of the two fluids is inside the cavity, the water is drawn in by the action that I term endosmose; when on the contrary the denser of the two fluids is outside the cavity, the less dense fluid, which is inside, is pushed outward by an inverse action that I term exosmose. (1) Word derived from ex, outside, and from ōsmos, impetus.") The reconstruction *h2u̯odhh1- is from R. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Brill, 2010), with Greek -ōth- presumed to be a contraction from *awoth-. Beekes rejects the suggestion by Chantraine (Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque) that ōtheîn is the durative form of a verb *éthein allegedly seen in éthōn, a present participle of obscure meaning that occurs twice in the Iliad (and hence parallel, according to Chantraine, with the lengthened grade seen in pōléomai "go/come frequently" as against pélomai "become, take place").

First Known Use

1863, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of osmosis was in 1863

Dictionary Entries Near osmosis

Cite this Entry

“Osmosis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/osmosis. Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

osmosis

noun

os·​mo·​sis äz-ˈmō-səs How to pronounce osmosis (audio)
äs-
1
: the passage of material (as a solvent) through a membrane (as of a plant or animal cell) that will not allow all kinds of molecules to pass
2
: a taking in (as of knowledge) as if by the process of osmosis
osmotic
-ˈmät-ik
adjective

Medical Definition

osmosis

noun

os·​mo·​sis äz-ˈmō-səs How to pronounce osmosis (audio) äs- How to pronounce osmosis (audio)
plural osmoses -ˌsēz How to pronounce osmosis (audio)
: movement of a solvent through a semipermeable membrane (as of a living cell) into a solution of higher solute concentration that tends to equalize the concentrations of solute on the two sides of the membrane

More from Merriam-Webster on osmosis

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