the aggregate of passively floating, drifting, or somewhat motile organisms occurring in a body of water, primarily comprising microscopic algae and protozoa.

1890–95; < German, special use of neuter of Greek planktós drifting, equivalent to plang-, variant stem of plázesthai to drift, roam, wander + -tos verbid suffix

planktonic [plangk-ton-ik] , adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
plankton (ˈplæŋktən)
Compare nekton the organisms inhabiting the surface layer of a sea or lake, consisting of small drifting plants and animals, such as diatoms
[C19: via German from Greek planktos wandering, from plazesthai to roam]

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Word Origin & History

1891, from Ger. Plankton (1887), coined by Ger. physiologist Viktor Hensen (1835-1924) from Gk. plankton, neut. of planktos "wandering, drifting," verbal adj. from plazesthai "to wander, drift," from plazein "to drive astray."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
plankton  [%PREMIUM_LINK%]     (plāngk'tən)  Pronunciation Key 
Small organisms that float or drift in great numbers in bodies of salt or fresh water. Plankton is a primary food source for many animals, and consists of bacteria, protozoans, certain algae, cnidarians, tiny crustaceans such as copepods, and many other organisms. Compare benthos, nekton.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
What it's definitely not from is diatoms and plankton.
The marine plankton that end up as oil and natural gas undergo similar
Plankton in the open ocean need a precise mixture of sunlight in shallower
  waters and nutrients from the deep.
Basking sharks can be found in coastal waters and feed on plankton.
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