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[lith-uh-sfeer] /ˈlɪθ əˌsfɪər/
noun, Geology.
the solid portion of the earth (distinguished from atmosphere, hydrosphere).
the crust and upper mantle of the earth.
Also called geosphere
[jee-uh-sfeer] /ˈdʒi əˌsfɪər/ (Show IPA)
Origin of lithosphere
First recorded in 1885-90; litho- + -sphere
Related forms
[lith-uh-sfer-ik] /ˌlɪθ əˈsfɛr ɪk/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for lithosphere
Historical Examples
  • Our globe is a cooling and contracting body, and depression must always be the prevailing movement of the lithosphere.

  • Thus were formed the oceanic basin and the continental arches of the lithosphere.

  • The lithosphere is the more or less stable crust of the earth, which may have been, to begin with, about fifty miles in thickness.

  • The accompanying figure shows the boundaries of lithosphere plates that are presently active.

    Volcanoes Robert I. Tilling
  • These igneous rocks were consolidated either upon the surface of the lithosphere or in its interior.

  • Above the metallic core of the planet, the lithosphere consists exclusively of fluorides of the metals.

    Uller Uprising Henry Beam Piper, John D. Clark and John F. Carr
  • By their action upon the lithosphere they have produced a third envelope,—the mantle of rock waste.

    The Elements of Geology William Harmon Norton
  • The dark, cold abysses of the ocean are far less affected by change than any other portion of the surface of the lithosphere.

    The Elements of Geology William Harmon Norton
British Dictionary definitions for lithosphere


the rigid outer layer of the earth, having an average thickness of about 75 km and comprising the earth's crust and the solid part of the mantle above the asthenosphere
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 lithosphere

"solid part of the earth's surface," 1881; see litho- "stone" + sphere.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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lithosphere in Science

The outer part of the Earth, consisting of the crust and upper mantle. It is about 55 km (34 mi) thick beneath the oceans and up to about 200 km (124 mi) thick beneath the continents. The high velocity with which seismic waves propagate through the lithosphere suggests that it is completely solid. Compare asthenosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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lithosphere in Culture
lithosphere [(lith-uh-sfeer)]

The outer layer of the Earth, comprising the crust and the upper part of the mantle. The lithosphere is about sixty miles thick.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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