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pith

[pith]
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noun
  1. Botany. the soft, spongy central cylinder of parenchymatous tissue in the stems of dicotyledonous plants.
  2. Zoology. the soft inner part of a feather, a hair, etc.
  3. the important or essential part; essence; core; heart: the pith of the matter.
  4. significant weight; substance; solidity: an argument without pith.
  5. Archaic. spinal cord or bone marrow.
  6. Archaic. strength, force, or vigor; mettle: men of pith.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to remove the pith from (plants).
  2. to destroy the spinal cord or brain of.
  3. to slaughter, as cattle, by severing the spinal cord.
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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. 2018

Examples from the Web for pith

Historical Examples

  • His conversation when he does not fly off at a tangent is full of pith and idea.

    The Stark Munro Letters

    J. Stark Munro

  • I had the pith of it all, though I saw the true light—but I was not worthy.

    The Christian

    Hall Caine

  • It is the pith and marrow of every substance, every relation, and every process.

    Nature

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • I now send you is, as regards thought or pith, as good as any of them.

  • This too is in the form of dialogue, but the argument of the story is in its pith as follows.


British Dictionary definitions for pith

pith

noun
  1. the soft fibrous tissue lining the inside of the rind in fruits such as the orange and grapefruit
  2. the essential or important part, point, etc
  3. weight; substance
  4. Also called: medulla botany the central core of unspecialized cells surrounded by conducting tissue in stems
  5. the soft central part of a bone, feather, etc
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verb (tr)
  1. to destroy the brain and spinal cord of (a laboratory animal) by piercing or severing
  2. to kill (animals) by severing the spinal cord
  3. to remove the pith from (a plant)
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Word Origin

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

n.

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.

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v.

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

pith in Medicine

pith

(pĭth)
n.
  1. The soft inner substance of a hair.
  2. Spinal cord or bone marrow. No longer in technical use.
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v.
  1. To sever or destroy the spinal cord of a vertebrate animal, usually by means of a needle inserted into the vertebral canal.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

pith in Science

pith

[pĭth]
Noun
  1. 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.
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Verb
  1. To remove the pith from a plant stem.
  2. 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.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.