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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Tectonics \Tec*ton"ics\, n.

  1. The science, or the art, by which implements, vessels, dwellings, or other edifices, are constructed, both agreeably to the end for which they are designed, and in conformity with artistic sentiments and ideas.

  2. (Geol. & Phys. Geog.) the branch of geology concerned with the rock structures and external forms resulting from the deformation of the earth's crust; also, similar studies of other planets. Also called structural geology.

    plate tectonics a geological theory which considers the earth's crust as divided into a number of large relatively rigid plates, which move relatively independently on the more plastic asthenosphere under the influence of magmatic upwellings, so as to drift apart, slide past, or collide with each other, causing the formation, breakup, or merging of continents, and causing volcanism, the building of mountain ranges, and the subduction of one plate beneath another. In recent decades a large body of data have accumulated to support the theory and provide some details of the mechanisms at work. One set of supporting observations consists of data showing that the continents have slowly moved relative to each other over long periods of time, a phenomenon called continental drift. Africa and South America, for example, have apparently moved apart from a connected configuration at about 2 to 3 cm per year over tens of millions of years.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1899 in the geological sense, from tectonic (also see -ics); earlier it meant "building or constructive arts in general" (1850).


n. 1 (context geology English) The study of crustal plates and other large-scale structural features of the Earth. 2 (context architecture English) The science and art of assemble, shape, or ornament materials in construction.

  1. n. the science of architecture [syn: architectonics]

  2. the branch of geology studying the folding and faulting of the earth's crust [syn: plate tectonics, plate tectonic theory]


Tectonics (from the Late Latin tectonicus from the Greek τεκτονικός, "pertaining to building") is concerned with the processes which control the structure and properties of the Earth's crust, and its evolution through time. In particular, it describes the processes of mountain building, the growth and behavior of the strong, old cores of continents known as cratons, and the ways in which the relatively rigid plates that comprise the Earth's outer shell interact with each other. Tectonics also provides a framework to understand the earthquake and volcanic belts which directly affect much of the global population. Tectonic studies are important for understanding erosion patterns in geomorphology and as guides for the economic geologist searching for petroleum and metallic ores.

Usage examples of "tectonics".

I thought there might be plate tectonics on Mars, when close-up spacecraft observations now show hardly a hint of plate tectonics.

Harold Jeffreys, strenuously insisted that plate tectonics was a physical impossibility, just as it had in the first edition way back in 1924.

It also gave us plate tectonics, which continually renews and rumples the surface.

Once again, we may be indebted to tectonics for allowing us to be here.

The wide distribution of dicynodonts supports the theory of plate tectonics and is evidence of the existence of a single land mass before the plates bearing the modern continents moved apart.

This colossal reorganization, driven by plate tectonics, continues today with unrelenting force.

Now he remembered everything: plate tectonics and subduction zones, Archimedes Principle, the thermal conductivity of two percent hydrox.

Earthquakes are classic chaotic systems, and the tectonics around here change by the minute.

But, thanks to the water, plate tectonics operated, and much of the carbon dioxide was kept locked up in the carbonate rocks, which were periodically subducted into the mantle, just as on Earth.

It changed in sped-up corrasion, in the buckling of tectonics at some psychotic rate as if time was untethered from its rules.

That idea never washed with me, since to get the 26-million-year periodicity you had to use the late Ordovician dyings, which were obviously just the result of plate tectonics moving the supercontinent Gondwanaland over the south pole, causing an ice age.

Until the principle of continental drift, or plate tectonics, was established and proved, one widely held explanation for the similarity of terrestrial life-forms on what today are distant continents was that animals had migrated over incredibly long land bridges.

In one of the most rapid and complete revolutions science has known, the formerly controversial theory of 'continental drift' has now become universally accepted under the name of plate tectonics.

I want to develop some ideas about the use of active elements to correct dynamic loads - winds, earthquakes, and so forth - I'm still consultant for General Tectonics.

Only when the evidence of sea-floor spreading became undeniable did geologists begin to accept the ideas of plate tectonics, which today underpin almost all serious geomorphological work.