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

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Other Words from plate tectonics

plate-tectonic adjective

Examples of plate tectonics in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Earth has an atmosphere and active plate tectonics. Amy Thompson, Smithsonian Magazine, "NASA Snags Its First Asteroid Sample," 6 Nov. 2020 The Rift Valley is subject to ongoing plate tectonics and crustal movement that can affect the lakes. Sean Avery, Quartz Africa, "Scientists are worried about the impact of Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes flooding," 16 Oct. 2020 Some experts said the watery crater created by plate tectonics (the Gulf) is too small for the legendary Fujiwhara effect. C. A. Bridges, USA TODAY, "Tropical Storms Laura, Marco form potential double threat to Gulf Coast: What we know," 22 Aug. 2020 When the history of science gets written, this amazing progress will be acclaimed as one of its greatest triumphs—up there with plate tectonics, the genome and the Standard Model of particle physics. Martin Rees, Scientific American, "How Astronomers Revolutionized Our View of the Cosmos," 18 Aug. 2020 Then, over time, plate tectonics lifted Panama up out of the ocean. National Geographic, "Epsiode 2: The Unstoppable Wily Coyote," 23 June 2020 That means the forces from plate tectonics seem to account for the height of the mountains, without any additional influences. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Plate tectonics vs. erosion—what sets the height of a mountain range?," 13 June 2020 This understanding of plate tectonics could be applied to other planets outside of our solar system as well. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Tectonic plates helped early Earth evolve 3.2 billion years ago, and that shaped how life developed," 22 Apr. 2020 In fact, given plate tectonics, there's no way of knowing what the Earth's land masses would look like at any point in time without knowing things like its past configuration, active plate boundaries, and so on. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Climate models go out of this world," 2 Mar. 2020

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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Time Traveler for plate tectonics

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The first known use of plate tectonics was in 1969

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Last Updated

15 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Plate tectonics.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2020.

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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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