plate tectonics

noun, plural in form but singular in construction

Definition of plate tectonics

1 : a theory in geology: the lithosphere of the earth is divided into a small number of plates which float on and travel independently over the mantle and much of the earth's seismic activity occurs at the boundaries of these plates
2 : the process and dynamics of tectonic plate movement also : a similar process on a body other than earth — compare continental drift

Other Words from plate tectonics

plate-tectonic \ ˈplāt-​tek-​ˈtä-​nik How to pronounce plate tectonics (audio) \ adjective

Examples of plate tectonics in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Understanding how heat moves through the planet's interior could, in turn, shed light on how what happens in the mantle drives processes like plate tectonics, the scientists added. NBC News, 16 Nov. 2021 Previous research suggested this emergence began roughly 2.5 billion years ago and was driven by plate tectonics -- the drifting, crashing and diving of the giant plates of rock that now make up Earth's surface. ABC News, 14 Nov. 2021 This, in turn, can help geologists better understand how the mantle controls the earth’s plate tectonics. Stephanie Pappas, Scientific American, 11 Nov. 2021 In addition, the researchers noted that plate tectonics likely did not play a major role in the rise of these cratons. ABC News, 14 Nov. 2021 Smrekar suspects Venus is a good analog for the time when plate tectonics began on Earth. Paul Voosen, Science | AAAS, 2 June 2021 It is now considered patently true. From Wegener's time until into the 1960s, earth scientists extended Wegener's apprehensions to describe plate tectonics, the motion of the massive components of the Earth's crust and upper mantle—its lithosphere. Virginia Heffernan, Wired, 26 Oct. 2021 On Earth, the motion along faults is driven by plate tectonics, powered by convection of the planet's partially molten interior. David Bressan, Forbes, 14 Oct. 2021 As for why Earth has plate tectonics, and our planetary neighbors don’t? Bruce Dorminey, Forbes, 24 Sep. 2021

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

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First Known Use of plate tectonics

1969, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of plate tectonics was in 1969

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Dictionary Entries Near plate tectonics

plate system

plate tectonics

plate tower

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Last Updated

28 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Plate tectonics.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for plate tectonics

plate tectonics


English Language Learners Definition of plate tectonics

: a scientific theory that the Earth's surface is made of very large sections that move very slowly also : the movements of the large sections that form the Earth's surface

plate tectonics

plate tec·​ton·​ics | \ -tek-ˈtä-niks How to pronounce plate tectonics (audio) \

Kids Definition of plate tectonics

: a scientific theory that the earth's surface is made of very large sections that move very slowly

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