[ het-er-uh-trof-ik, -troh-fik ]
/ ˌhɛt ər əˈtrɒf ɪk, -ˈtroʊ fɪk /

adjective Biology.

capable of utilizing only organic materials as a source of food.

Origin of heterotrophic

First recorded in 1890–95; hetero- + -trophic
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for heterotrophic

  • Should the compound be inorganic, the term autotrophic is applied to the organism and heterotrophic if the compound is organic.

    The Fundamentals of Bacteriology|Charles Bradfield Morrey

British Dictionary definitions for heterotrophic


/ (ˌhɛtərəʊˈtrɒfɪk) /


(of organisms, such as animals) obtaining carbon for growth and energy from complex organic compoundsCompare autotrophic

Derived Forms

heterotroph, noun

Word Origin for heterotrophic

C20: from hetero- + Greek trophikos concerning food, from trophē nourishment
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

Science definitions for heterotrophic


[ hĕtər-ə-trŏf′ ]

An organism that cannot manufacture its own food and instead obtains its food and energy by taking in organic substances, usually plant or animal matter. All animals, protozoans, fungi, and most bacteria are heterotrophs. Compare autotroph.

Related forms

heterotrophic adjective (hĕt′ər-ə-trŏfĭk)
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