7 Essential Words of Fall
1520s, from Latin fungus "a mushroom," in English as a learned alternative to mushroom. (Funge was used in this sense late 14c.) The Latin word is believed to be cognate with (or derived from) Greek sphongos, the Attic form of spongos "sponge" (see sponge).
fungus fun·gus (fŭng'gəs)
n. pl. fun·gus·es or fun·gi (fŭn'jī, fŭng'gī)
Any of numerous eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Fungi, which lack chlorophyll and vascular tissue and range in form from a single cell to a body mass of branched filamentous hyphae that often produce specialized fruiting bodies.
Plural fungi (fŭn'jī, fŭng'gī)
Any of a wide variety of organisms that reproduce by spores, including the mushrooms, molds, yeasts, and mildews. The spores of most fungi grow a network of slender tubes called hyphae that spread into and feed off of dead organic matter or living organisms. Fungi absorb food by excreting enzymes that break down complex substances into molecules that can be absorbed into the hyphae. The hyphae also produce reproductive structures, such as mushrooms and other growths. Some fungi (called perfect fungi) can reproduce by both sexually produced spores and asexual spores; other fungi (called imperfect fungi or deuteromycetes) are thought to have lost their sexual stage and can only reproduce by asexual spores. Fungi can live in a wide variety of environments, and fungal spores can survive extreme temperatures. Fungi exist in over 100,000 species, nearly all of which live on land. They can be extremely destructive, feeding on almost any kind of material and causing food spoilage and many plant diseases. Although fungi were once grouped with plants, they are now considered a separate kingdom in taxonomy. See Table at taxonomy.