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[plangk-tuh n] /ˈplæŋk tən/
the aggregate of passively floating, drifting, or somewhat motile organisms occurring in a body of water, primarily comprising microscopic algae and protozoa.
Origin of plankton
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
Related forms
[plangk-ton-ik] /plæŋkˈtɒn ɪk/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for plankton


the organisms inhabiting the surface layer of a sea or lake, consisting of small drifting plants and animals, such as diatoms Compare nekton
Derived Forms
planktonic (plæŋkˈtɒnɪk) adjective
Word Origin
C19: via German from Greek planktos wandering, from plazesthai to roam
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
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Word Origin and History for plankton

1891, from German Plankton (1887), coined by German physiologist Viktor Hensen (1835-1924) from Greek plankton, neuter of planktos "wandering, drifting," verbal adjective from plazesthai "to wander, drift," from plazein "to drive astray," from PIE root *plak- (2) "to strike, hit" (see plague (n.)). Related: Planktonic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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plankton in Science
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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