zo·​o·​xan·​thel·​la ˌzō-ə-zan-ˈthe-lə How to pronounce zooxanthella (audio)
plural zooxanthellae ˌzō-ə-zan-ˈthe-(ˌ)lē How to pronounce zooxanthella (audio)
: any of various symbiotic dinoflagellates that live within the cells of other organisms (such as reef-building coral polyps)

Word History


borrowed from New Latin, originally a genus name, from zoo- zoo- + Greek xanthós "yellow" + New Latin -ella, suffix in names of microorganisms, going back to Latin, feminine of -ellus, diminutive suffix, originally from bases ending in -ul-, -r- or -n- — more at xanthophyll

Note: As a genus name, Zooxanthella was introduced by the German marine biologist Karl Brandt (1854-1931) in "Ueber das Zusammenleben von Thieren und Algen" ("Verhandlungen der physiologischen Gesellschaft zu Berlin," "Nachtrag zur Sitzung von 11. November 1881"), Archiv für Physiologie, Physiologische Abtheilung des Archives für Anatomie und Physiologie, Jahrgang 1881, p. 572.

First Known Use

1882, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of zooxanthella was in 1882

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Cite this Entry

“Zooxanthella.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zooxanthella. Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

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