• synonyms


[myoo-choo-uh-liz-uh m]
  1. a relationship between two species of organisms in which both benefit from the association.
  2. the doctrine that the interdependence of social elements is the primary determinant of individual and social relations, especially the theory that common ownership of property, or collective effort and control governed by sentiments of brotherhood and mutual aid, will be beneficial to both the individual and society.
  3. Sociology. the force or principle of mutual aid.
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Origin of mutualism

First recorded in 1860–65; mutual + -ism
Related formsmu·tu·al·ist, nounmu·tu·al·is·tic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for mutualism

Historical Examples

  • One has given to this mode of activity the name of mutualism.

    Introduction to the Science of Sociology

    Robert E. Park

  • Proudhon worked out his idea of Anarchism and Mutualism, without State interference.

    The Conquest of Bread

    Peter Kropotkin

  • The chief breakdown is in dealing with the new relations that arise from the mutualism, the interdependence of our time.

  • Mutualism is symbiosis in which both members benefit by the association.

  • Parasitism, commensalism, mutualism, exist with animals among the different species.

British Dictionary definitions for mutualism


  1. another name for symbiosis
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Derived Formsmutualist, noun, adjectivemutualistic, adjective
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 mutualism


1849, in reference to the doctrine of French anarchist/socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), from French mutuellisme. In biology, from 1876, from mutual + -ism.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

mutualism in Medicine


  1. A symbiotic relationship in which both species benefit.
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Related formsmu′tu•al•istic adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

mutualism in Science


  1. A relationship between two organisms in which each of the organisms benefits.♦ In obligate mutualism the interacting species are interdependent and cannot survive without each other. The fungi and algae that combine to form lichen are obligate mutualists.♦ In the more common facultative mutualism the interacting species derive benefit without being fully dependent. Many plants produce fruits that are eaten by birds, and the birds later excrete the seeds of these fruits far from the parent plant. While both species benefit, the birds have other food available to them, and the plants can disperse their seeds when the uneaten fruit drops. Compare amensalism commensalism parasitism.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.