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See also: Foraminifera



A microscopic image of foraminifera of the species Ammonia beccarii.

Learned borrowing from New Latin Foraminifera (subphylum name), from French foraminifère (foraminifer, foraminifera), from French Foraminifères[1] coined by the French naturalist Alcide d’Orbigny (1802–1857) in an 1826 article.[2] Foraminifère is derived from Latin forāmina (apertures, holes) + -ifer (a variant of -fer (suffix meaning ‘bearing, carrying’), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *bʰer- (to bear, carry)), that is, “having holes”; forāmina is the plural of forāmen (aperture or opening produced by boring; hole), from forō (to bore, pierce) (from Proto-Indo-European *bʰerH- (to pierce; to strike)) + -men (suffix forming neuter nouns of the third declension).



foraminifera (plural foraminifera or foraminiferas)

  1. Synonym of foraminifer (any of a large group of aquatic amoeboid protists of the subphylum Foraminifera, characterized by streaming granular ectoplasm that among other things is used for catching food, often with a calcareous shell with many holes through which pseudopodia protrude) [from mid 19th c.]
    • 1850, J. W., “Proceedings of the Microscopical Society of London. [Report of William Crawford Williamson’s paper “On the Minute Structure of the Calcareous Shells of Some Recent Species of Foraminifera”.]”, in Edward Newman, editor, The Zoologist: A Popular Miscellany of Natural History, volume VIII, London: John Van Voorst, [], OCLC 863367188, page 2685:
      This elegant Foraminifera has long been one of the best known of recent species; in its young state it is one of the most abundant organisms in the Cuban sand: in this immature form it appears a Foraminifera of the ordinary spiral type; []
    • 1872, J[ohn] E[llor] Taylor, “The Story of the ‘Crags’”, in M[ordecai] C[ubitt] Cooke, editor, Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip: An Illustrated Medium of Interchange and Gossip for Students and Lovers of Nature, volume XIII, number 84, London: Robert Hardwicke, [], OCLC 707194231, page 272, column 1:
      By the slow accumulation of dead shells, corals, &c., cemented by the smaller tests of foraminifera, the Coralline Crag eventually attained a thickness of fifty feet.
    • 1875, J. W. Griffith; Arthur Henfrey, “CHALK”, in J. W. Griffith, Martin Duncan, M[iles] J[oseph] Berkeley, and T[homas] Rupert Jones, editors, The Micrographic Dictionary; a Guide to the Examination and Investigation of the Structure and Nature of Microscopic Objects, volume I (Text), 3rd edition, London: John Van Voorst, [], OCLC 457304003, page 154, column 1:
      The best method of examining chalk for minute Foraminifera is this: [] The balsam gradually penetrates into the cells, the black rings of the air-bubbles disappear, and the minute, frequently very elegant cells of the Foraminifera become visible.
    • 1875 November 25, “The Work of the Challenger”, in Nature: A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Science, volume XIII, number 317, London; New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., published 1876, OCLC 64051812, page 70, column 2:
      Several forms were met with [at 2,800 fathoms] which apparently do not occur on the surface, particularly a number of species of a group which is so far as we know entirely undescribed. It seems to be intermediate between the Radiolarians and the Foraminiferas, resembling the former in the condition and appearance of the sarcode and in the siliceous composition of the test, and the latter in external form.
    • 1879, A. Ge., “GEOLOGY”, in The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature, volume X, 9th edition, Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, OCLC 181809840, page 358, column 1:
      Careful preparation of a fragment of chalk usually brings to light remains, sometimes well preserved, of foraminifera (Rotalina ornata, Cristellaria rotulata, Globigerina bulloides).
    • 1882, N[ancy] D’Anvers [pseudonym; Nancy Regina Emily Meugens Bell, Lowest Forms of Water Animals: An Illustrated Natural History Reader (Science Ladders; V), New York, N.Y.: G[eorge] P[almer] Putnam’s Sons [], OCLC 18140877, pages 12–13:
      Yet more wonderful and beautiful than the Amœbas are the Rhizopoda called Foraminiferas. The hard word Foraminifera means to carry an aperture or opening, and is used as the name of an immense number of tiny creatures living in thin shells with openings in them, though which the inhabitants send out the threads all Rhizopoda have the power of making from the substance of their bodies.
    • 1890, “Geographical Distribution of Living Beings: Plants; Limiting Agents”, in Robert Brown, editor, Our Earth and Its Story: A Popular Treatise on Physical Geography, London; Paris: Cassell & Company, [], OCLC 498784218, page 270, column 1:
      Backboneless animals precede those with backbones and the minute foraminifera—bits of jelly in shells—species with a more complex organisation.
    • 1893 May 5, W. C. Lucy, “Annual Address to the Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club at Gloucester, May 5th, 1893”, in Proceedings of the Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club, volume XI, Gloucester, Gloucestershire: [] John Bellows, published 1895, OCLC 21579763, page 6:
      He then passed to the beds next in succession in the series, and exhibited some beautiful photographic prints of their Oolitic structure, as seen under the microscope, shewing tubules growing round a nucleus, generally a fragment of a calcareous organism—in some cases an entire one, as a Foraminifera—but whether the tubules were of animal or vegetable origin, he was not prepared to say.
    • 1894 August 21, Wilkinson, general appraiser, “Specimens of Natural History on Microscope Slides, Free”, in Synopsis of the Decisions of the Treasury Department and Board of United States General Appraisers on the Construction of the Tariff, Navigation, and Other Laws for the Year Ending December 31, 1894 (15310–G.A. 2744), Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, published 1895, OCLC 14084037, page 730:
      The articles are diatoms, spiculas, foraminiferas, and polycystines mounted on microscope slides. They [] are claimed to be exempt from duty as specimens of natural history under paragraph 712. [] We find that the goods are specimens of natural history imported as objects of science, and sustain the protest.
    • 1913, Samuel Sanford, “Southern Florida”, in George Charlton Matson; Samuel Sanford, Geology and Ground Waters of Florida [] (United States Geological Survey Water-supply Paper; 319), Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, OCLC 458936934, page 188:
      In addition to mollusks, foraminiferas, coralline algæ, and echinoids have contributed to the formation of the rock [Key Largo limestone].
    • 1971 February, Valeri A. Krasheninnikov, “Cenozoic Foraminifera”, in Alfred G[eorge] Fischer [et al.], Initial Reports of the Deep Sea Drilling Project [], volume VI, Washington, D.C.: National Ocean Sediment Coring Program, National Science Foundation; U.S. Government Printing Office, OCLC 1116764571, part II (Shore Laboratory Studies), pages 1067–1068:
      On the Caroline Ridge (present water depth 2900 to 3000 meters) radiolarians are more numerous in the Oligocene and Lower Miocene than in the Middle and Upper Miocene. Also, either radiolarians or planktonic foraminiferas predominate in some layers. If radiolarians predominate, then the foraminiferas are impoverised in their specific composition.
    • 2005, H. C. W. Skinner; A. H. Jahren, “Biomineralization”, in William H. Schlesinger, editor, Biogeochemistry (Treatise on Geochemistry; 8), Amsterdam; Boston, Mass.: Elsevier, →ISBN, section (Foraminifera), page 139, column 2:
      Constructed in a modular manner, each chamber of a foraminifera is preformed with an organic layer that subsequently mineralizes.
    • 2011, Ellen [J.] Prager, “The Invisible Crowd”, in Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Oceans’ Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter, Chicago, Ill.; London: University of Chicago Press, →ISBN, page 5:
      Some foraminifera also have dinoflagellates living within their tissues that aid in growth through photosynthesis. These foraminifera are much like sophisticated satellites that open their solar panels at daybreak. In the morning, the foraminifera transport the algae out of their shells to the ends of their spines and gooey arms []. There, the dinoflagellates capture sunlight and grow through photosynthesis; in the process they use up the foraminiferas' wastes while producing oxygen. As darkness falls, the algae are are drawn back inside the foraminiferas' shells. Thousands of symbiotic algae may be housed within a foraminifera’s tissues, making it a floating, dense packet of productivity.
    • 2012, Jean-Pierre Debenay, A Guide to 1,000 Foraminifera from Southwestern Pacific New Caledonia, Marseille: IRD Éditions; Paris: Publications Scientifiques du Muséum, →ISBN, page 38, column 2:
      In the Bay of Prony, a foraminifera, Operculina philippinensis, is abundant in the fraction > 0.5 mm where it can compose up to 65% of the assemblages.

Usage notes[edit]

It has been suggested it is acceptable to use either foraminifera (plural foraminifera or foraminiferas) or foraminifer (plural foraminifers) as long as one form of the word and its plural(s) are used consistently throughout a text.[3]

Derived terms[edit]




  1. plural of foraminiferon
  2. plural of foraminiferum


  1. ^ Compare “Foraminifera, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2019; “foraminifer, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  2. ^ [Alcide Charles Victor Marie] Dessalines d’Orbigny (March 1826), “Tableau méthodique de la classe des Céphalopodes [Methodical Table of the Class of Cephalopods]”, in [Jean Victor] Audouin, [Adolphe-Théodore] Brongniart, and [Jean-Baptiste] Dumas, editors, Annales des Sciences Naturelles [] [Annals of the Natural Sciences []], volume VII, Paris: Crochard, [], ISSN 0150-9306, OCLC 1017981779, pages 245–314.
  3. ^ Jere H[enry] Lipps; Kenneth L. Finger; Sally E. Walker (October 2011), “What Should We Call the Foraminifera?”, in Journal of Foraminiferal Research[1], volume 41, issue 4, Lawrence, Kan.: Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research, ISSN 0096-1191, OCLC 1108733583, page 312, column 1.