• synonyms


See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
  1. any organism that lives on dead organic matter, as certain fungi and bacteria.

Origin of saprophyte

First recorded in 1870–75; sapro- + -phyte
Also called saprobe.
Related formssap·ro·phyt·ic [sap-ruh-fit-ik] /ˌsæp rəˈfɪt ɪk/, adjectivesap·ro·phyt·i·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for saprophytic

Historical Examples

  • In the second group, the bacterial species lives a saprophytic existence, growing in milk, if it happens to find its way therein.

    Outlines of Dairy Bacteriology, 8th edition

    H. L. Russell

  • Many are exclusively parasitic or saprophytic, and many are facultative, both conditions of living being possible.

    Disease and Its Causes</p>

    William Thomas Councilman

  • Some parasites are able to lead a saprophytic existence also, but as a rule they live at the expense of animal or plant life.

  • These can no more be attacked during their saprophytic existence than those just mentioned.

    The Fundamentals of Bacteriology

    Charles Bradfield Morrey

  • Von Fodor showed that saprophytic bacteria injected into the blood are rapidly destroyed.

    The Fundamentals of Bacteriology

    Charles Bradfield Morrey

British Dictionary definitions for saprophytic


  1. any plant that lives and feeds on dead organic matter using mycorrhizal fungi associated with its roots; a saprotrophic plant
Derived Formssaprophytic (ˌsæprəʊˈfɪtɪk), adjectivesaprophytically, adverb
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

Word Origin and History for saprophytic


1872; see saprophyte + -ic.



"bacteria or fungus that grows on decaying organic matter," 1867, from French, from Greek sapros "putrid" + phyton "plant" (see phyto-). Related: Saprophytism.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

saprophytic in Medicine


([object Object])
  1. An organism, especially a fungus or bacterium, that grows on and derives its nourishment from dead or decaying organic matter.
Related formssap′ro•phytic (-fĭtĭk) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

saprophytic in Science


  1. An organism, especially a fungus or bacterium, that lives on and gets its nourishment from dead organisms or decaying organic material. Saprophytes recycle organic material in the soil, breaking it down into in simpler compounds that can be taken up by other organisms.
Related formssaprophytic adjective (săp′rə-fĭtĭk)
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

  • About
  • Cookies, Terms, & Privacy
© 2018 Dictionary.com, LLC.