• synonyms


  1. any organism that lives on dead organic matter, as certain fungi and bacteria.
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Origin of saprophyte

First recorded in 1870–75; sapro- + -phyte
Also called saprobe.
Related formssap·ro·phyt·ic [sap-ruh-fit-ik] /ˌsæp rəˈfɪt ɪk/, adjectivesap·ro·phyt·i·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for saprophyte

Historical Examples of saprophyte

  • It is a parasite or saprophyte, and entirely destitute of chlorophyll, being pure white throughout.

    Elements of Structural and Systematic Botany

    Douglas Houghton Campbell

British Dictionary definitions for saprophyte


  1. any plant that lives and feeds on dead organic matter using mycorrhizal fungi associated with its roots; a saprotrophic plant
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Derived Formssaprophytic (ˌsæprəʊˈfɪtɪk), adjectivesaprophytically, adverb
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 saprophyte


"bacteria or fungus that grows on decaying organic matter," 1867, from French, from Greek sapros "putrid" + phyton "plant" (see phyto-). Related: Saprophytism.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

saprophyte in Medicine


  1. An organism, especially a fungus or bacterium, that grows on and derives its nourishment from dead or decaying organic matter.
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Related formssap′ro•phytic (-fĭtĭk) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

saprophyte in Science


  1. An organism, especially a fungus or bacterium, that lives on and gets its nourishment from dead organisms or decaying organic material. Saprophytes recycle organic material in the soil, breaking it down into in simpler compounds that can be taken up by other organisms.
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Related formssaprophytic adjective (săp′rə-fĭtĭk)
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.