Online Biology Dictionary

picture of a mite Electron micrograph of the rust mite Aceria anthocoptes (Enlarge)


The word biology can have several different meanings:

  1. the scientific study of living things and vital processes. The field is composed of numerous subdisciplines, including such fields as zoology, botany, genetics, medicine, agriculture, anatomy, and histology.

  2. the rules, life processes, or phenomena relating to a particular organism or class of organisms (e.g., "the ~ of plants").

  3. [syn. biota] The flora and fauna of a particular era, environment, geographic region, or biome, taken as a whole.

Synonyms: Life science; biological science.

Derivation: Gk. bios, meaning "life" + Gk logos meaning "explanation, law, theory, reasoning, or speech" (in modern usage within a scientific context, the suffix -logy can usually be taken as meaning "the study of").

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Note: Various sources on the Internet state that the term biology was originated by Treviranus, Lamarck, or Burdach in 1800, or shortly thereafter. However,the German author Friedrich Bouterwek used the word considerably earlier, in his Kleine Schriften philosophischen, ästhetischen und litterarischen Inhalts (1791). It is also used by Theodor Georg August Roose in his Grundzüge der Lehre von der Lebenskraft ... (1797). So the word is actually a decade, at a minimum, older than is generally supposed. It may have been produced by a shortening of, or have been suggested by, the word amphibiology, which means the study of amphibians (amphibiology occurs in its French form, amphibiologie, as early as 1748 in Bibliothèque raisonnée des ouvrages des savans de l'Europe, Volume 41).

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