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[awr-guh-niz-uh m] /ˈɔr gəˌnɪz əm/
a form of life composed of mutually interdependent parts that maintain various vital processes.
a form of life considered as an entity; an animal, plant, fungus, protistan, or moneran.
any organized body or system conceived of as analogous to a living being:
the governmental organism.
any complex thing or system having properties and functions determined not only by the properties and relations of its individual parts, but by the character of the whole that they compose and by the relations of the parts to the whole.
1655-65; organ + -ism
Related forms
organismic, organismal, adjective
organismically, adverb
superorganism, noun
Can be confused
organism, orgasm.
4. organization, network, entity, structure. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for organisms
  • The infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or other microscopic organisms.
  • Organic gardens are free of chemicals and have a rich diversity of organisms.
  • Billions of years ago, organic chemicals in the primordial soup somehow organized themselves into the first organisms.
  • These pioneers were attracted by unique ocean organisms with special chemical properties not seen on land.
  • Bacteria can change into more infectious and deadly organisms after a stint in space, a new experiment suggests.
  • These were simple organisms with single cells lacking nuclei.
  • We do not spin our interpretation to get extra protection for our favorite organisms.
  • Some fish come to hide from predators, others to feed off organisms that have made the platforms home.
  • Twice the ship trawled the bottom for a mile and a half, trapping organisms with a giant fine-mesh net.
  • Both fungi and roundworms are outdone dramatically in turn by still smaller organisms.
British Dictionary definitions for organisms


any living biological entity, such as an animal, plant, fungus, or bacterium
anything resembling a living creature in structure, behaviour, etc
Derived Forms
organismal, organismic, adjective
organismally, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for organisms



1660s, "organic structure, organization," from organize + -ism. Sense of "living animal or plant" first recorded 1842. Related: Organismic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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organisms in Medicine

organism or·gan·ism (ôr'gə-nĭz'əm)
An individual form of life, such as a plant, an animal, a bacterium, a protist, or a fungus; a body made up of organs, organelles, or other parts that work together to carry on the various processes of life.

or'gan·is'mal (-nĭz'məl) or or'gan·is'mic (-mĭk) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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organisms in Science
An individual form of life that is capable of growing, metabolizing nutrients, and usually reproducing. Organisms can be unicellular or multicellular. They are scientifically divided into five different groups (called kingdoms) that include prokaryotes, protists, fungi, plants, and animals, and that are further subdivided based on common ancestry and homology of anatomic and molecular structures.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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