verb (used with object)

Origin of pith

before 900; Middle English; Old English pitha; cognate with Dutch pit. See pit2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pith

Historical Examples of pith

British Dictionary definitions for pith



the soft fibrous tissue lining the inside of the rind in fruits such as the orange and grapefruit
the essential or important part, point, etc
weight; substance
Also called: medulla botany the central core of unspecialized cells surrounded by conducting tissue in stems
the soft central part of a bone, feather, etc

verb (tr)

to destroy the brain and spinal cord of (a laboratory animal) by piercing or severing
to kill (animals) by severing the spinal cord
to remove the pith from (a plant)

Word Origin for pith

Old English pitha; compare Middle Low German pedik, Middle Dutch pitt (e)
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 pith

Old English piþa "pith of plants," also "essential part," from West Germanic *pithan- (cf. Middle Dutch pitte, Dutch pit, East Frisian pit), a Low German root of uncertain origin. Figurative sense was in Old English. Pith helmet (1889, earlier pith hat, 1884) so called because it is made from the dried pith of the Bengal spongewood.


"to kill by piercing the spinal cord," 1805, from pith (n.). Related: Pithed; pithing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for pith




The soft inner substance of a hair.
Spinal cord or bone marrow. No longer in technical use.


To sever or destroy the spinal cord of a vertebrate animal, usually by means of a needle inserted into the vertebral canal.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for pith




The soft, spongy tissue in the center of the stems of most flowering plants, gymnosperms, and ferns. Pith is composed of parenchyma cells. In plants that undergo secondary growth, such as angiosperms, the pith is surrounded by the vascular tissues and is gradually compressed by the inward growth of the vascular tissue known as xylem. In plants with woody stems, the pith dries out and often disintegrates as the plant grows older, leaving the stem hollow. See illustration at xylem.


To remove the pith from a plant stem.
To sever or destroy the spinal cord of an animal for the purpose of dissecting it, usually by inserting a needle into the spinal canal.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.