[ trof-ik, troh-fik ]
/ ˈtrɒf ɪk, ˈtroʊ fɪk /
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of or relating to nutrition; concerned in nutritive processes.
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Origin of trophic

First recorded in 1870–75, trophic is from the Greek word trophikós pertaining to food. See tropho-, -ic


troph·i·cal·ly, adverb

Other definitions for trophic (2 of 2)


a combining form with the meanings “having nutritional habits or requirements” of the kind specified by the initial element (autotrophic), “affecting the activity of, maintaining” that specified (gonadotrophic) (in this sense often interchangeable with -tropic ); also forming adjectives corresponding to nouns ending in -troph or -trophy (hypertrophic).

Origin of -trophic

see origin at trophic
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does -trophic mean?

The combining form -trophic is used like a suffix for a variety of meanings, including “having nutritional habits or requirements.” In other words, the sense of -trophic specifies how an organism gets its nutrition or how it feeds.

The combining form -trophic is also used as an adjective form of nouns ending with -troph or -trophy. In some cases, -trophic means “affecting the activity of, maintaining.” In this sense, it is often synonymous with -tropic.

The combining form -trophic is often used in scientific terms, especially in biology and anatomy. It comes from the Greek trophikós, meaning “pertaining to food.”

Corresponding forms of –trophic combined to the beginning of words are tropho- and troph-.

Want to know more? Read our Words That Use -troph, -trophy, tropho-, and troph- articles.

Examples of -trophic

One term from biology that features -trophic is heterotrophic, meaning “capable of utilizing only organic materials as a source of food.” It is the adjective form of heterotroph.

The first part of the word, hetero-, means “different, other,” and -trophic, as we’ve seen, concerns what an organism needs for its food. So, heterotrophic has a literal sense of “other-feeding.”

Why? Put simply, heterotrophs, such as animals, require outside sources of nutrition whereas autotrophs, such as plants, can produce their own organic materials from inorganic materials (e.g., carbon dioxide).

In other, etymological words, heterotrophic organisms need “other food” because they can’t make any for themselves.

What are some words that use the combining form -trophic?

Break it down!

Most plants are autotrophic, which means, as discussed above, they can produce their own organic materials for nutrition from inorganic substances. Think: photosynthesis.

The combining form auto- means “self” or “same.” With this in mind, what does autotrophic literally translate to?

How to use trophic in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for trophic

/ (ˈtrɒfɪk) /

of or relating to nutritionthe trophic levels of a food chain

Derived forms of trophic

trophically, adverb

Word Origin for trophic

C19: from Greek trophikos, from trophē food, from trephein to feed
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

Medical definitions for trophic (1 of 2)

[ trŏfĭk, trōfĭk ]

Of, relating to, or characterized by nutrition.

Medical definitions for trophic (2 of 2)


Of, relating to, or characterized by a specified kind of nutrition:organotrophic.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Scientific definitions for trophic

[ trŏfĭk ]

Relating to the feeding habits of different organisms in a food chain or web.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.