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[pith] /pɪθ/
Botany. the soft, spongy central cylinder of parenchymatous tissue in the stems of dicotyledonous plants.
Zoology. the soft inner part of a feather, a hair, etc.
the important or essential part; essence; core; heart:
the pith of the matter.
significant weight; substance; solidity:
an argument without pith.
Archaic. spinal cord or bone marrow.
Archaic. strength, force, or vigor; mettle:
men of pith.
verb (used with object)
to remove the pith from (plants).
to destroy the spinal cord or brain of.
to slaughter, as cattle, by severing the spinal cord.
Origin of pith
before 900; Middle English; Old English pitha; cognate with Dutch pit. See pit2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for pith
  • Remove as much of the white membrane or pith as possible.
  • Imagine you are the kind of guy who owns a pith helmet.
  • Cut away all skin and white pith from oranges, down to the flesh.
  • They learn to extract the pith from the spine-defended inedible stem.
  • Meanwhile, peel tangerines, removing tiny threads of pith.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut peel from oranges, removing all the white pith.
  • Peel zest from oranges and lemons with a vegetable peeler, avoiding white pith.
  • Then juice oranges, reserving juice and peel, and discarding any pith that remains.
  • With the point of a small knife, remove and discard any pith.
  • Thoroughly peel the lemons, discarding all the peel and the white pith.
British Dictionary definitions for pith


the soft fibrous tissue lining the inside of the rind in fruits such as the orange and grapefruit
the essential or important part, point, etc
weight; substance
(botany) Also called medulla. the central core of unspecialized cells surrounded by conducting tissue in stems
the soft central part of a bone, feather, etc
verb (transitive)
to destroy the brain and spinal cord of (a laboratory animal) by piercing or severing
to kill (animals) by severing the spinal cord
to remove the pith from (a plant)
Word Origin
Old English pitha; compare Middle Low German pedik, Middle Dutch pitt(e)
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 pith

Old English piþa "pith of plants," also "essential part," from West Germanic *pithan- (cf. Middle Dutch pitte, Dutch pit, East Frisian pit), a Low German root of uncertain origin. Figurative sense was in Old English. Pith helmet (1889, earlier pith hat, 1884) so called because it is made from the dried pith of the Bengal spongewood.


"to kill by piercing the spinal cord," 1805, from pith (n.). Related: Pithed; pithing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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pith in Medicine

pith (pĭth)

  1. The soft inner substance of a hair.

  2. Spinal cord or bone marrow. No longer in technical use.

v. pithed, pith·ing, piths
To sever or destroy the spinal cord of a vertebrate animal, usually by means of a needle inserted into the vertebral canal.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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pith in Science
Noun  The soft, spongy tissue in the center of the stems of most flowering plants, gymnosperms, and ferns. Pith is composed of parenchyma cells. In plants that undergo secondary growth, such as angiosperms, the pith is surrounded by the vascular tissues and is gradually compressed by the inward growth of the vascular tissue known as xylem. In plants with woody stems, the pith dries out and often disintegrates as the plant grows older, leaving the stem hollow. See illustration at xylem.

  1. To remove the pith from a plant stem.

  2. To sever or destroy the spinal cord of an animal for the purpose of dissecting it, usually by inserting a needle into the spinal canal.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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