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tu·​ni·​cate ˈtü-ni-kət How to pronounce tunicate (audio)
variants or less commonly tunicated
: having or covered with a tunic or tunica
: having, arranged in, or made up of concentric layers
a tunicate flower bulb
: of or relating to the tunicates


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tu·​ni·​cate ˈtü-ni-kət How to pronounce tunicate (audio)
: any of a subphylum (Urochordata synonym Tunicata) of marine chordate animals (such as ascidians) that are filter feeders having a thick secreted covering layer, a greatly reduced nervous system, and only in the larval stage a notochord

Examples of tunicate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
About 3,000 species of tunicates worldwide reside in saltwater habitats. Elizabeth Gamillo, Discover Magazine, 6 July 2023 First described in 2009 in the unicellular green algae Micromonas, introners have subsequently turned up in the genomes of some other algae, some species of fungi, tiny marine organisms called dinoflagellates and simple invertebrates called tunicates. Jake Buehler, Quanta Magazine, 30 Mar. 2023 Every tunicate can reproduce by itself if conditions warrant. Carl Engelking, Discover Magazine, 18 May 2016 The scientists say the bizarre underwater creature could be a new type of soft coral or even a sponge or tunicate. Joshua Hawkins, BGR, 26 Sep. 2022 Another tunicate, Ecteinascidia turbinata, which attaches to submerged mangrove roots, yielded the molecular mixture that led to Yondelis, a sarcoma and ovarian cancer drug, and Zepzelca, which targets small-cell lung cancer. Stephanie Stone, Scientific American, 23 July 2022 As just a few examples, in June, the FDA approved a new treatment for lung cancer called lurbinectedin that was originally synthesized from a toxin found in the sea squirt, or tunicate, a marine invertebrate that uses the poison to ward off enemies. Eric Niiler, Wired, 27 Oct. 2020 Here’s the Deal with Those Slimy, Brain-Like Blobs Washing Ashore in Florida and the Carolinas Salps, like their relatives the sea pork, are part of a group called tunicates, are considered one of the most evolved of all marine invertebrates. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, 25 June 2019 Moving between mid-water and the deep sea, Phillips and Gruber were able to handle a wide range of organisms, like a glass sponge, a sea cucumber, a branching coral, and even free-floating bioluminescent tunicates. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, 3 Oct. 2018 See More

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

Word History



Latin tunicatus, from tunica


New Latin Tunicata, from neuter plural of Latin tunicatus

First Known Use


circa 1623, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1889, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of tunicate was circa 1623

Dictionary Entries Near tunicate

Cite this Entry

“Tunicate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tunicate. Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: any of a major group of marine chordate animals that are filter feeders having a thick covering layer, a reduced nervous system, and only in the larval stage a notochord

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