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

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Other Words from plate tectonics

plate-tectonic adjective

Examples of plate tectonics in a Sentence

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John Tuzo Wilson developed plate tectonics between 1962 and 1968 and thus explained continental drift and the constant reshaping of the earth’s surface. David Wootton, WSJ, "‘Origin Story’ Review: The View From Above," 18 May 2018 Without plate tectonics turning over its crust, Mars’s interior has probably remained largely the same since its formation, Dr. Smrekar says. Eva Botkin-kowacki, The Christian Science Monitor, "How NASA's latest mission to Mars might dig up truths about Earth," 7 May 2018 Mars doesn't have plate tectonics like Earth, so its seismicity is expected to be much more like the Moon's: relatively small shudders and creaks caused by the planet's very slow cooling and shrinking. Emily Lakdawalla, Popular Mechanics, "Meet InSight: The Mission To Measure Marsquakes and Unlock the Red Planet," 30 Apr. 2018 The planet’s quick cooling had the effect of stunting development of plate tectonics, which are responsible for most of the tremors on Earth. Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle, "California launch: NASA to send spacecraft to study ‘marsquakes’," 18 Apr. 2018 But the good news is that Mars is nowhere near as geologically active as Earth, with its plate tectonics and volcanism and many earthquakes. Matt Simon, WIRED, "Inside the Cleanroom Where NASA’s New Mars Lander Waits to Launch," 9 Apr. 2018 Her experiments aim to show how plate tectonics created the sea floor over billions of years, and how those forces are at work today. Washington Post, "Sweet science: Putting corn syrup to work on Earth’s origins," 20 Mar. 2018 Compounding the uncertainty was the underlying debate of whether plate tectonics even functioned that long ago. Longreads, "The Quest for the Collision Zone: An Arctic Expedition," 12 Mar. 2018 This discovery helped transform the controversial notion of continental drift into the far more powerful and explanatory theory of plate tectonics. The Economist, "Sing a song of sonar," 10 Mar. 2018

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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More Definitions for plate tectonics

plate tectonics


English Language Learners Definition of plate tectonics

geology : 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

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one that holds something together

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