eco·​sys·​tem | \ ˈē-kō-ˌsi-stəm How to pronounce ecosystem (audio) , ˈe-kō- \
plural ecosystems

Definition of ecosystem

1 : the complex of a community of organisms and its environment functioning as an ecological unit That influx of fresh water alters the ocean's salinity near the seafloor, a factor that influences the makeup of the ecosystems in those places.— Sid Perkins Global warming, if it proceeds as many scientists predict, threatens to undo decades of conservation work and could mean the destruction of the monarch butterfly, the edelweiss, the polar bear and innumerable other species living in fragile ecosystems, an emerging body of scientific evidence suggests.— William K. Stevens
2 : something (such as a network of businesses) considered to resemble an ecological ecosystem especially because of its complex interdependent parts Newspaper layoffs have ripple effects for the entire local news ecosystem because, as the Congressional Research Service noted, television, radio and online outlets often "piggyback on reporting done by much larger newspaper staffs."— David Sirota Lots of Walmart customers are underserved by banks and other financial institutions, [Daniel] Eckert says; the company's experiments with finance-related products and services help customers "not only save money but also have access to a financial ecosystem they were crowded out from."— Rob Walker

Other Words from ecosystem

ecosystemic \ ˌē-​kō-​si-​ˈste-​mik How to pronounce ecosystem (audio) , ˌe-​kō-​ \ adjective
The Amazon invariably evokes superlatives and often hyperbole. Stock images such as river dimensions and biotic variety are now joined with notions of forest biomass and ecosystemic complexity. — Kent Mathewson The women of Sex and the City occasionally argued, sure, but their ecosystemic purpose—to be there for their friends as they date and search and marry—was always extremely clear. — Megan Garber

The Environment of Ecosystem

For the now-ubiquitous prefix eco-, we can thank the great German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, who in 1866 coined the term oekologie from the Greek oikos, meaning “home, place to live.” Haeckel was thinking primarily of the “homes” of animals, but by the time the word translated into English in 1875 (initially spelled “oecology”), its meaning had broadened to embrace plant habitats as well. The related term ecosystem was proposed by the British botanist Arthur Tansley, 60 years after one of his own professors first translated Haeckel’s oekologie. It may have been ecosystem, which treats eco- as a prefix to a standard English word, that gave English speakers permission to do the same in coining a host of other terms: ecosphere, ecotour, eco-friendly, and all the rest. Meanwhile, ecosystem itself has been appropriated freely in all kinds of contexts well removed from the natural environment: the “app ecosystem,” the “education ecosystem,” the “startup ecosystem,” the “pop-culture ecosystem,” the “mobile ecosystem,” the “biking ecosystem,” and so forth.

Examples of ecosystem in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But exactly when the bets on that ecosystem will pay off is now an open question. Rob Wile, NBC News, 14 May 2022 Tenant experience platforms are emerging as a way to connect a building and landlord with the people working in it—a metaphorical umbrella for the entire building ecosystem. Morley Barr, Forbes, 13 May 2022 Finally, pongamia oil helps to maintain proper balance in the skin’s ecosystem, making for all-round healthier and stronger skin that is less prone to breakouts. Grooming Playbook, The Salt Lake Tribune, 13 May 2022 Last fall, the Treasury Department issued a report calling on Congress to devise rules for the stablecoin ecosystem. New York Times, 12 May 2022 The problem is that the entire ecosystem relies on traders believing Luna has value. Allison Morrow, CNN, 12 May 2022 During this period of prospective box office regrowth, a megahit is interpreted as a sign of life — a promise of potential long-term value for the theatrical ecosystem, even if only one studio is making gains in the short-term. J. Kim Murphy, Variety, 10 May 2022 While all plants are helpful in providing habitats and food for birds, Meyer said the evolutionary history of a region bridges a connection between its natural animals and vegetation within the individual ecosystem. San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 May 2022 The most tangible and dramatic restoration effort happened recently, when the country sank the Winconcrete, a former World War II ship that will serve as an artificial reef, enhancing both the local ecosystem and its tourism draw. Graham Averill, Outside Online, 7 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ecosystem.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of ecosystem

1935, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for ecosystem

Time Traveler

The first known use of ecosystem was in 1935

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Last Updated

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ecosystem.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for ecosystem


eco·​sys·​tem | \ ˈē-kō-ˌsi-stəm How to pronounce ecosystem (audio) , ˈe- \

Kids Definition of ecosystem

: the whole group of living and nonliving things that make up an environment and affect each other


eco·​sys·​tem | \ -ˌsis-təm How to pronounce ecosystem (audio) \

Medical Definition of ecosystem

: the complex of a community and its environment functioning as an ecological unit in nature

More from Merriam-Webster on ecosystem

Nglish: Translation of ecosystem for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ecosystem for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about ecosystem


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