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90s Slang You Should Know


[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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for pith
Historical Examples
  • When oak is “quarter-sawed,” these pith rays, called “mirrors,” show to best advantage.

    Trees Every Child Should Know Julia Ellen Rogers
  • Rice paper is made of the pith of a tree found only in Formosa.

    Four Young Explorers Oliver Optic
  • It would have given his most spiritless followers the pith to run till morning across a strand of rock and pebble.

    John Splendid Neil Munro
  • Their fruit, or pith, or crowns, furnish him with an abundance of food.

    The Western World W.H.G. Kingston
  • Often we would buy the cane in the markets, peel off the outside and chew the pith to get the sweet juice.

    An Ohio Woman in the Philippines Emily Bronson Conger
  • When I saw him I called out, for his pith hat was covered with blood.

    Sketches of Our Life at Sarawak Harriette McDougall
  • In newspaper reports of public meetings, sayings of pith and moment are often attributed to "A Voice" from the audience.

    Ulster's Stand For Union Ronald McNeill
  • The intercommunications were much more numerous, but that is their pith.

    The Life of Gordon, Volume II Demetrius Charles Boulger
  • The pith of it was contained in the last words: "Do you ask this from us under threat of war?"

  • A large part of the wood is formed by the medullary or pith rays.

    Seasoning of Wood Joseph B. Wagner
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.


"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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