tec·​ton·​ic tek-ˈtä-nik How to pronounce tectonic (audio)
: of or relating to tectonics
: having a strong and widespread impact
a tectonic shift in voting patterns
tectonically adverb

Examples of tectonic in a Sentence

There has been a recent tectonic shift in voting patterns. a tectonic shift in societal trends occurred in the 1960s
Recent Examples on the Web Subduction on early Earth may have been less dramatic than today, with warmer crust less likely to dive as deep into the mantle as modern tectonic plates do, says study co-author Sally Law, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh. Stephanie Pappas, Scientific American, 20 Nov. 2023 Iceland is one of the most active volcanic hot spots in the world, as the island is located where two tectonic plates, the Eurasian and the North American plates, are slowly moving away from each other. Marlene Lenthang, NBC News, 17 Nov. 2023 Most oceanic islands are volcanic, formed by magma that wells up as tectonic plates drift over hot spots in the Earth’s mantle. Frank Hulley-Jones, Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2023 Iceland straddles two tectonic plates, which are divided by an undersea mountain chain that is oozing magma, and when that magma pushes through the plates, earthquakes occur. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 16 Nov. 2023 Originating from the Motagua Fault, the meeting point of the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates, the earthquake killed around 23,000 people and injured many more. Tim Brinkhof, Discover Magazine, 15 Nov. 2023 Despite five mass extinctions brought about by arctic freezes, scorching heat, incendiary lightning strikes, cataclysmic asteroids, volcanic detonations, and pulverizing tectonic shifts, life has always found a way to burst into bloom, to be fruitful and multiply. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 Nov. 2023 More generally, there appears to be a degree of denial in the West over the tectonic shift in world order toward a more assertive Global South. Jorge Heine, The Conversation, 8 Nov. 2023 This is a film about the strained and ever-shifting tectonic plates of heterosexual relationships, above all else. Nadine Smith, Pitchfork, 8 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


probably borrowed from German tektonisch "pertaining to broader structural features of the earth's crust," earlier "of building or construction," borrowed from Late Latin tectonicus "of a builder or architect," borrowed from Greek tektonikós "of a carpenter, skilled in carpentry or building," from tekton-, téktōn "woodworker, carpenter, craftsman" + -ikos -ic entry 1; téktōn going back to Indo-European *tetḱ-on- (whence also Sanskrit takṣan-, tákṣā "carpenter," Avestan tašan-, tašā "builder, creator"), n-stem derivative from a verbal base *tetḱ- "fashion, produce," whence Sanskrit tákṣati "(s/he) fashions, builds from wood," Avestan tāšt "(s/he) forms," Latvian tešu, tèst "to hew," Old Church Slavic tešǫ, tesati "to hew, fell," (with o-grade) Lithuanian tašýti "to hew"

Note: A root of the form *tetḱ- would be peculiar for Indo-European. Helmut Rix, et al., (Lexikon der indogermanischen Verben, 2. Ausgabe, Wiesbaden, 2001) rescue the situation by hypothesizing that *tetḱ- represents a pre-Indo-European reduplicated aorist, *te-tḱ-, of a root *teḱ-, seen in unreduplicated form in Greek téknon "child, young of an animal" and étekon, tekeîn, aorist of tíktō, tíktein "to give birth to, beget, generate" (see dystocia). However—aside from the certain correspondence of Greek téktōn with Vedic Sanskrit takṣan-, Avestan tašan- —all other outcomes of this supposed root can be accounted for as *teḱ-s-, an extended form of *teḱ-. To explain this anomaly, Andrew Sihler (New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin, Oxford, 1995, p. 225) hypothesizes that téktōn is a conflation of a regular derivative *texōn and an unattested agentive derivative *téktōr, going back to *teks-tor-, (with cluster simplification as in hektós "sixth" corresponding to héx "six"). Traditionally added to the compared forms given in the etymology above are Latin texere "to weave, form by plaiting or twining, construct" and other words (see at text entry 1). See also technical entry 1.

First Known Use

1894, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of tectonic was in 1894

Dictionary Entries Near tectonic

Cite this Entry

“Tectonic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tectonic. Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


tec·​ton·​ic tek-ˈtän-ik How to pronounce tectonic (audio)
: of or relating to tectonics
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