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symbiosis

Printable Version Pronunciation: sim-bee-o-sis Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A mutually beneficial relationship between two organisms; the opposite of parasitism, in which one organism benefits at the expense of its host. 2. More broadly, any mutually dependent and mutually beneficial relationship.

Notes: The relationship indicated by this word is a symbiotic one. A member of such a mutually beneficial relationship is either a symbiont or symbiote. The plural of this word is symbioses, usually referring to different kinds of symbiotic relationships. Millions of symbiotic microbes live all over our skin, cleaning up dirt, debris, and oils. Their relationship is called ectosymbiosis because they live on the outside of us. Termites are known to have endosymbiotic bacteria in their intestines that help digest the wood the termites eat.

In Play: The termite example suggests further uses like this: "I don't know why you say my brother is a parasite just because he is living with us. Since he reduces our food and alcohol intake, you could just as easily see it as a symbiotic relationship." Joking aside, this is a very lovely word with a lovely sense: "Their marriage was more than ordinary: it was a perfectly symbiotic relationship."

Word History: This word is made up of three parts: sym "with, together" + bio "life, living" + osis "a condition". The prefix-preposition sym is found in many words, such as symphony, a group of sounds together, and sympathy, the kindness of sharing the burden of a tragedy together with someone. Bio- is found in many words, such as biology, the scientific study of life, and biography, the written story of someone's life.

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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