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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Parasitism \Par"a*si`tism\ (p[a^]r"[.a]*s[imac]`t[i^]z'm; 277), n. [Cf. F. parasitisme.]

  1. The state or behavior of a parasite; the act of a parasite. ``Court parasitism.''

  2. (Bot. & Zo["o]l.) The state of being parasitic.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1610s, from parasite + -ism. Biological sense is from 1853.


n. 1 (context ecology English) Interaction between two organisms, in which one organism (the parasite) benefits and the other (the host) is harmed. 2 (context figuratively English) A similar interaction between people.


n. the relation between two different kinds of organisms in which one receives benefits from the other by causing damage to it (usually not fatal damage)


In biology/ ecology, parasitism is a non- mutual symbiotic relationship between species, where one species, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host. Traditionally parasite (in biological usage) referred primarily to organisms visible to the naked eye, or macroparasites (such as helminths). Parasites can be microparasites, which are typically smaller, such as protozoa, viruses, and bacteria. Examples of parasites include the plants mistletoe and cuscuta, and animals such as hookworms.

Unlike predators, parasites typically do not kill their host, are generally much smaller than their host, and will often live in or on their host for an extended period. Both are special cases of consumer-resource interactions. Parasites show a high degree of specialization, and reproduce at a faster rate than their hosts. Classic examples of parasitism include interactions between vertebrate hosts and tapeworms, flukes, the Plasmodium species, and fleas. Parasitism differs from the parasitoid relationship in that parasitoids generally kill their hosts.


Parasites reduce host biological fitness by general or specialized pathology, such as parasitic castration and impairment of secondary sex characteristics, to the modification of host behavior. Parasites increase their own fitness by exploiting hosts for resources necessary for their survival, e.g. food, water, heat, habitat, and transmission. Although parasitism applies unambiguously to many cases, it is part of a continuum of types of interactions between species, rather than an exclusive category. In many cases, it is difficult to demonstrate harm to the host. In others, there may be no apparent specialization on the part of the parasite, or the interaction between the organisms may remain short-lived.

Parasitism (social offense)

Social parasitism is a pejorative that is leveled against a group or class which is considered to be detrimental to society. The term comes from the ancient Greek (parásitos), "one who lives at another's expense, person who eats at the table of another," used to label the social offender. (The English language borrowed the word/concept "parasite" as a social label in the 1530s; the later use of " parasite" as a biological metaphor developed from the early 17th century.)

For example, the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky was charged with social parasitism by the Soviet authorities in a trial in 1964, who found that his series of odd jobs and role as a poet were not a sufficient contribution to society.

Usage examples of "parasitism".

As I explained, the life and intelligence which evolved in the datasphere medium knew no other form of evolution than parasitism, hyperparasitism, and hyper-hyper-hyper-hyperparasitism.

But the Core was aware of the shortcomings of absolute parasitism and knew that the only way it could grow beyond parasite status and parasite psychology was to evolve in response to the physical universe -- that is, to have physical bodies as well as abstract Core personae.

Core personae which survive the Reapers do so not just through parasitism, but through a necrophilic parasitism.

Core, they would have to abandon zero-sum parasitism and discover true symbiosis.

Our exist- e as human beings has largely been defined by the endless dance of fear and parasitism with the Core AI entities.

After the Fall, after the Core lost control of the Hegemony via its dataspheres and far- casters, after the Core lost its greatest computing engine -- its direct parasitism on the billions of human brains as they transited the Void Which Binds via the so-called farcasters -- the TechnoCore had to find a new way to exploit humankind.

With the cruciforms, this parasitism on the human brain has been resumed.

Multiply your personae, miniaturize essential Core memories, and make your parasitism on the human neural networks more direct .

In this epigram, Burroughs suggests that parasitism -- corruption, plagiarism, surplus appropriation -- is in fact conterminous with life itself.

We need to perfect our own habits of parasitism, and ever more busily frequent the habitations of our dead, in the knowledge that every self-perpetuating and self-extending system ultimately encounters its own limits, its own parasites.

Thus parasitism, a form of plant pathology, exists as well for all the higher life-forms.

Culture-parasitism arises in the same way that parasitism arises in politics.

In animal and human parasitism, one of the numerous effects on the host is the loss of nourishment, and Cultural parasitism is analogous.

They are an organic part of every Culture, but parasitism occurs only fortuitously, and not with necessity.

Her life-long economic parasitism has utterly blurred her conception of the meaning of equality.