• synonyms


noun Geology.
  1. the solid portion of the earth (distinguished from atmosphere, hydrosphere).
  2. the crust and upper mantle of the earth.
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Origin of lithosphere

First recorded in 1885–90; litho- + -sphere
Also called ge·o·sphere [jee-uh-sfeer] /ˈdʒi əˌsfɪər/.
Related formslith·o·spher·ic [lith-uh-sfer-ik] /ˌlɪθ əˈsfɛr ɪk/, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for lithosphere

Historical Examples

  • Our globe is a cooling and contracting body, and depression must always be the prevailing movement of the lithosphere.

    Fragments of Earth Lore

    James Geikie

  • Thus were formed the oceanic basin and the continental arches of the lithosphere.

  • The lithosphere is the more or less stable crust of the earth, which may have been, to begin with, about fifty miles in thickness.

  • The accompanying figure shows the boundaries of lithosphere plates that are presently active.


    Robert I. Tilling

  • These igneous rocks were consolidated either upon the surface of the lithosphere or in its interior.

British Dictionary definitions for lithosphere


  1. the rigid outer layer of the earth, having an average thickness of about 75 km and comprising the earth's crust and the solid part of the mantle above the asthenosphere
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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 lithosphere


"solid part of the earth's surface," 1881; see litho- "stone" + sphere.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

lithosphere in Science


  1. The outer part of the Earth, consisting of the crust and upper mantle. It is about 55 km (34 mi) thick beneath the oceans and up to about 200 km (124 mi) thick beneath the continents. The high velocity with which seismic waves propagate through the lithosphere suggests that it is completely solid. Compare asthenosphere atmosphere hydrosphere.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

lithosphere in Culture



The outer layer of the Earth, comprising the crust and the upper part of the mantle. The lithosphere is about sixty miles thick.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.