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From Middle French parasite, from Latin parasitus, from Ancient Greek παράσιτος ‎(parásitos, person who eats at the table of another), from noun use of adjective meaning "feeding beside", from παρά ‎(pará, beside) + σῖτος ‎(sîtos, food).



parasite ‎(plural parasites)

  1. (pejorative) A person who lives on other people's efforts or expense and gives little or nothing back. [from 16th c.]
  2. (biology) an organism that lives on or in another organism, deriving benefit from living on or in that other organism, while not contributing towards that other organism sufficiently to cover the cost to that other organism.
    • 2013 March 1, Harold J. Morowitz, “The Smallest Cell”, American Scientist, volume 101, number 2, page 83: 
      It is likely that the long evolutionary trajectory of Mycoplasma went from a reductive autotroph to oxidative heterotroph to a cell-wall–defective degenerate parasite. This evolutionary trajectory assumes the simplicity to complexity route of biogenesis, a point of view that is not universally accepted.
    Lice, fleas, ticks and mites are widely spread parasites.
  3. (literary, poetic) A climbing plant which is supported by a wall, trellis etc. [from 19th c.]
    • 1813, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Queen Mab, I:
      Her golden tresses shade / The bosom’s stainless pride, / Curling like tendrils of the parasite / Around a marble column.


Related terms[edit]


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See also[edit]


  • parasite” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary (2001).





  1. vocative singular of parasītus