Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Of, relating to, or characterized by a symbiotic relationship in which one species is benefited while the other is unaffected.
  • n. An organism participating in a symbiotic relationship in which one species derives some benefit while the other is unaffected.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. of a form of symbiosis in which one organism derives a benefit while the other is unaffected
  • n. An organism partaking in a commensal relationship.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Having the character of a commensal.
  • n. One who eats at the same table.
  • n. An animal, not truly parasitic, which lives in, with, or on, another, partaking usually of the same food. Both species may be benefited by the association.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Eating together at the same table.
  • In zoology and botany, living with as a tenant or coinhabitant, but not as a parasite; inquiline. See II., 2.
  • n. One who eats at the same table with another or others.
  • n. In zoology and botany, one of two animals or plants which live together, but neither at the expense of the other; an animal or a plant as a tenant, but not a true parasite, of another; an inquiline.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. either of two different animal or plant species living in close association but not interdependent
  • adj. living in a state of commensalism

Etymologies

Middle English, sharing a meal, from Medieval Latin commēnsālis : Latin com-, com- + Latin mēnsa, table.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Medieval Latin commensalis. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • These beneficial bugs are called commensal bacteria.

    PhysOrg.com - latest science and technology news stories

  • He who lives at the expense of another, and at his table, is his "commensal".

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 10: Mass Music-Newman

  • Over millions of years, it has learned to live benignly on human skin and in human nostrils, in a microscopic intimacy that biologists call “commensal,” from the Latin words for “being at table together.”

    SUPERBUG

  • Furthermore, human commensal species, such as great-tailed grackle Quiscalus mexiccanus and bronzed cowbird Molothrus aeneus, normally increase in number around human settlements and result in the loss of nesting success in other birds.

    Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, Belize

  • A hush descends on the commensal gathering of friends and relatives the moment the steaming dishes are laid down.

    Food

  • The commensal skin bacteria that I am doing research on can be used as a substitute for bathing.

    Thing to keep in mind if you’re having shoulder surgery

  • All three are human commensal staple diet: pizza crusts and very, very tolerant of proximity of people, traffic, cats & dogs.

    Rabett Run

  • When I took a human-animal interaction class in college, we were taught that cats are not properly considered domesticated but commensal, like a remora or a cowbird but with much more sophisticated social engineering!

    Hard wired to the past | The Blog of Michael R. Eades, M.D.

  • Best of all, it is an enthusiastic and stylish picture of the joys of commensal drinking.

    Books on Drinking

  • Freshwater ostracods are free-living except for members of one group which are commensal on the gills of crayfish.

    Crustacea

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