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  1. Geography.
    1. either of two corresponding parallels of latitude on the terrestrial globe, one (tropic of Cancer) about 23½° N, and the other (tropic of Capricorn) about 23½° S of the equator, being the boundaries of the Torrid Zone.
    2. the tropics,the regions lying between and near these parallels of latitude; the Torrid Zone and neighboring regions.
  2. Astronomy. either of two circles on the celestial sphere, one lying in the same plane as the tropic of Cancer, the other in the same plane as the tropic of Capricorn.
  1. of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or occurring in the tropics; tropical: romance under the tropic skies of Old Mexico.

Origin of tropic

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin tropicus < Greek tropikós pertaining to a turn, equivalent to tróp(os) turn + -ikos -ic
Related formsnon·trop·ic, adjectiveun·trop·ic, adjective


  1. a combining form with the meanings “turned toward, with an orientation toward” that specified by the initial element (geotropic), “having an affinity for, affecting” what is specified (lipotropic; neurotropic; psychotropic), “affecting the activity of, maintaining” a specified organ (gonadotropic).
Compare -trophic.

Origin of -tropic

see origin at tropic Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tropic

Contemporary Examples of tropic

Historical Examples of tropic

  • The fever was in his brain, the magic of the tropic moon was flooding his soul.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • There are islands, tropic islands, there, where it's always summer.

    Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer

    Cyrus Townsend Brady

  • They watched the sun set in all its glory over the tropic sea.

    Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer

    Cyrus Townsend Brady

  • In truth, he pined after the Capricorn—I don't mean only the tropic; I mean the ship too.


    Joseph Conrad

  • The sun-sets on the English stage are as rapid as in any tropic region.

    Cruel Barbara Allen

    David Christie Murray

British Dictionary definitions for tropic


  1. (sometimes capital) either of the parallel lines of latitude at about 23 1/2 °N (tropic of Cancer) and 23 1/2 °S (tropic of Capricorn) of the equator
  2. the tropics (often capital) that part of the earth's surface between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn; the Torrid Zone
  3. astronomy either of the two parallel circles on the celestial sphere having the same latitudes and names as the corresponding lines on the earth
  1. a less common word for tropical

Word Origin for tropic

C14: from Late Latin tropicus belonging to a turn, from Greek tropikos, from tropos a turn; from the ancient belief that the sun turned back at the solstices


adj combining form
  1. turning or developing in response to a certain stimulusheliotropic

Word Origin for -tropic

from Greek tropos a turn; see trope
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 tropic

late 14c., "either of the two circles in the celestial sphere which describe the northernmost and southernmost points of the ecliptic," from Late Latin tropicus "of or pertaining to the solstice" (as a noun, "one of the tropics"), from Latin tropicus "pertaining to a turn," from Greek tropikos "of or pertaining to a turn or change, or to the solstice" (as a noun, "the solstice"), from trope "a turning" (see trope).

The notion is of the point at which the sun "turns back" after reaching its northernmost or southernmost point in the sky. Extended 1520s to the corresponding latitudes on the earth's surface (23 degrees 28 minutes north and south); meaning "region between these parallels" is from 1837. Tropical "hot and lush like the climate of the tropics" is first attested 1834.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

tropic in Medicine


  1. Affecting or attracted to something specified:gonadotropic.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

tropic in Science


  1. Either of the two parallels of latitude representing the points farthest north and south at which the Sun can shine directly overhead. The northern tropic is the Tropic of Cancer and the southern one is the Tropic of Capricorn.
  2. tropics. The region of the Earth lying between these latitudes. The tropics are generally the warmest and most humid region of the Earth. Also called Torrid Zone
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.