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

As such, scientists are eager to decipher the conditions that allow plate tectonics to arise. Shannon Hall, Scientific American, "Venus, Earth’s Evil Twin, Beckons Space Agencies," 12 June 2019 On Earth, the perpetual churn of plate tectonics has been steadily erasing the planet's ancient surface and its record of early impacts. National Geographic, "Huge mystery blob found under the moon's far side," 11 June 2019 Giant animatronic dinos, ancient forests and deserts, fossils, casts, plate tectonics in action. Stephan Salisbury,, "N.C. Wyeth, Penn Museum’s moving sphinx, Gee’s Bend quilters, and more museum highlights," 5 June 2019 Water plays an integral role in plate tectonics, triggering volcanoes and helping parts of the upper mantle flow more freely. Quanta Magazine, "The Hunt for Earth’s Deep Hidden Oceans," 11 July 2018 The rift is probably a sign of things to come as the plate tectonics under Africa rearrange themselves. Laura Geggel, Washington Post, "A huge crack provides evidence that Africa is slowly splitting into two," 7 Apr. 2018 BepiColombo will image the planet at a higher resolution and attempt to improve the scientific understanding of how a planet without plate tectonics cools. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Two orbiters begin their long journey to Mercury Friday night," 19 Oct. 2018 The science of plate tectonics, proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912, didn’t become widely accepted until the 1970s. Angela V. Olinto, WSJ, "NASA’s New Probe Sails Into the Solar Wind," 9 Aug. 2018 But up until the point plate tectonics became widely accepted, the Expanding Earth theory was a popular explanation for the processes that shaped the Earth. Meg Neal, Popular Mechanics, "We’ve Been Wrong Before: The Expanding Earth Theory," 3 Aug. 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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21 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for plate tectonics

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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