phytolith

noun

phy·​to·​lith ˈfī-tə-ˌlith How to pronounce phytolith (audio)
: a microscopic siliceous particle that is formed by a plant and that is highly resistant to decomposition
ancient vegetation revealed by phytoliths

Examples of phytolith in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But the short answer may sound inscrutable — a Levallois refit or manioc phytolith — or dull — a bowl, comb or donkey bone. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, 4 Aug. 2020 His team sampled the ancient soil of Olorgesailie Basin for fossilized particles of plant tissue called phytoliths. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, 18 Mar. 2018 Compared to wild rice varieties, domesticated rice has distinctive phytolith patterns. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, 7 June 2017 But in sifting the soil samples, Ph.D. student Lautaro Hilbert noticed the unusual abundance of rice phytoliths. Dennis Normile, Science | AAAS, 10 Oct. 2017 While acidic soils decompose and destroy the organic matter from rice, including its grains and stems, rice plants produces microscopic bits of silica called phytoliths that form in distinctive patterns in rice leaves. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, 7 June 2017 While acidic soils decompose and destroy the organic matter from rice, including its grains and stems, rice plants produces microscopic bits of silica called phytoliths that form in distinctive patterns in rice leaves. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, 7 June 2017 Phytoliths in modern rice have more than nine fish-scale decorations. Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, 29 May 2017 Less than a tenth of an ounce of soil might yield thousands of phytoliths, says Dolores Piperno, a phytolith expert at the Smithsonian who was not involved in the study. Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, 29 May 2017

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

Word History

Etymology

phyto- + -lith, probably after New Latin Phytolitharia or German Phytolitharien, a loosely defined taxonomic division covering siliceous vegetable remains

Note: The taxon Phytolitharia/Phytolitharien was introduced by the German microbiologist Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg (1795-1876), perhaps first in a series of reports in Bericht über die zur Bekanntmachung geeigneten Verhandlungen der Königlichen Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, aus dem Jahre 1843. Ehrenberg divided the microscopic organisms he found in marine estuary mud into three groups: "siliceous shelled Polygastrica," "calcareous-shelled Polythalmia," and "siliceous vegetable remains, Phytolitharia" (see C.G. Ehrenberg, "On the muddy deposits at the Mouths and Deltas of various rivers in northern Europe, and the infusorial Animalcules found in those deposits," Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, vol. 1 [1845], p. 252).

First Known Use

1958, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of phytolith was in 1958

Dictionary Entries Near phytolith

Cite this Entry

“Phytolith.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phytolith. Accessed 22 Jun. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!