[ bahy-oh-mag-nuh-fahy ]

verb (used without object)

, bi·o·mag·ni·fied, bi·o·mag·ni·fy·ing.
  1. to undergo biological magnification.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of biomagnify1

1970–75; back formation from biomagnification; -fy


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More About Biomagnify

What does biomagnify mean?

To biomagnify is to undergo biomagnification (or biological magnification)—the process by which substances build up within organisms at each stage of the food chain. This often involves the buildup of toxic substances.

For example, when a lion eats a crocodile (yes, this happens), it ingests the toxins in the crocodile, which include the toxins from all the animals that the crocodile has ever eaten, which include the toxins from all the plants that those animals have ever eaten. At each stage of the food chain, the toxic buildup increases—it biomagnifies.

The buildup of toxic substances within a single organism is called biological accumulation (or bioaccumulation). When this happens, these substances are said to bioaccumulate. Biomagnification, then, is when the biological accumulation in each organism is compounded (added together, or magnified). Due to biomagnification, the amount of toxic substances (such as mercury or pesticides) is greater in the bodies of organisms (including humans) that consume other organisms.

Example: The dangers of allowing toxins to be released into the environment is that they tend to biomagnify, resulting in unwanted effects to organisms and food chains. 

Where does biomagnify come from?

The first records of the word biomagnify come from around the 1970s. It is a back formation from biomagnification, which means that the noun biomagnification came first and was then altered to make the verb biomagnify. The prefix bio- means “life” and is used in terms that involve living organisms.

Terms like biomagnify, biomagnification, bioaccumulate, and bioaccumulation are helpful in highlighting the importance of keeping toxins out of the environment. All of them are relatively recent, and that’s because serious study of the effects of bioaccumulation and biomagnification only began in the last quarter of the 1900s. Today, they are especially used in the context of ecosystems, food chains, and context of the study of sometimes unseen environmental impact of pollution and pesticides.

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What are some other forms related to biomagnify?

What are some words that share a root or word element with biomagnify

What are some words that often get used in discussing biomagnify?

How is biomagnify used in real life?

Biomagnify is most commonly used in the context of the environment and ecosystems.



Try using biomagnify!

True or False? 

Biomagnify means the same thing as bioaccumulate.