• synonyms


[fahy-tuh-plangk-tuh n]
  1. the aggregate of plants and plantlike organisms in plankton.
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Compare zooplankton.

Origin of phytoplankton

First recorded in 1895–1900; phyto- + plankton
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for phytoplankton


  1. the photosynthesizing organisms in plankton, mainly unicellular algae and cyanobacteriaCompare zooplankton
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Derived Formsphytoplanktonic (ˌfaɪtəplæŋkˈtɒnɪk), 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 phytoplankton


1897, from phyto- + plankton.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

phytoplankton in Science


  1. Plankton consisting of free-floating algae, protists, and cyanobacteria. Phytoplankton form the beginning of the food chain for aquatic animals and fix large amounts of carbon, which would otherwise be released as carbon dioxide.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.