• synonyms


[kuh-men-suh l]
  1. eating together at the same table.
  2. Ecology. (of an animal, plant, fungus, etc.) living with, on, or in another, without injury to either.
  3. Sociology. (of a person or group) not competing while residing in or occupying the same area as another individual or group having independent or different values or customs.
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  1. a companion at table.
  2. Ecology. a commensal organism.
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Origin of commensal

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English word from Medieval Latin word commēnsālis. See com-, mensal2
Related formscom·men·sal·ism, nouncom·men·sal·i·ty [kom-en-sal-i-tee] /ˌkɒm ɛnˈsæl ɪ ti/, nouncom·men·sal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for commensality

Historical Examples of commensality

  • In some parts of Travancore, the latter do not even enjoy the privilege of commensality with the other Izhavas.

    Castes and Tribes of Southern India

    Edgar Thurston

  • The rule is a very ancient Semitic one, due to the old connection between sacrifice and commensality.


    William Graham Sumner

  • Among the Greeks the right of commensality, or eating together, was restricted.

British Dictionary definitions for commensality


  1. (of two different species of plant or animal) living in close association, such that one species benefits without harming the other
  2. rare of or relating to eating together, esp at the same tablecommensal pleasures
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  1. a commensal plant or animal
  2. rare a companion at table
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Derived Formscommensalism, nouncommensality (ˌkɒmɛnˈsælɪtɪ), nouncommensally, adverb

Word Origin for commensal

C14: from Medieval Latin commensālis, from Latin com- together + mensa table
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 commensality



"one who eats at the same table" (as another), c.1400, from Old French commensal (15c.), from Medieval Latin commensalis, from com- "together" (see com-) + mensa (genitive mensalis) "table" (see mesa). Biological sense attested from 1870.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

commensality in Medicine


  1. Of, relating to, or characterized by a symbiotic relationship in which one species is benefited while the other is unaffected.
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  1. An organism participating in a symbiotic relationship in which one species derives some benefit while the other is unaffected.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.