Definitions

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

  • n. Biology An organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different organism while contributing nothing to the survival of its host.
  • n. One who habitually takes advantage of the generosity of others without making any useful return.
  • n. One who lives off and flatters the rich; a sycophant.
  • n. A professional dinner guest, especially in ancient Greece.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A (generally undesirable) living organism that exists by stealing the resources produced/collected by another living organism.
  • n. A person who relies on other people's efforts and gives little back (originally a sycophant).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One who frequents the tables of the rich, or who lives at another's expense, and earns his welcome by flattery; a hanger-on; a toady; a sycophant.
  • n.
  • n. A plant obtaining nourishment immediately from other plants to which it attaches itself, and whose juices it absorbs; -- sometimes, but erroneously, called epiphyte.
  • n. A plant living on or within an animal, and supported at its expense, as many species of fungi of the genus Torrubia.
  • n.
  • n. An animal which lives during the whole or part of its existence on or in the body of some other animal, feeding upon its food, blood, or tissues, as lice, tapeworms, etc.
  • n. An animal which steals the food of another, as the parasitic jager.
  • n. An animal which habitually uses the nest of another, as the cowbird and the European cuckoo.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Originally, one who frequents the tables of the rich and earns his welcome by flattery; hence a hanger-on; a fawning fiatterer; a sycophant.
  • n. Specifically In zoö., an animal that lives in or on and at the expense of another animal called technically the host; also, by extension, an animal which lives on or with, but not at the expense of, its host: in the latter sense, more precisely designated inquilince or commensal (see these words). , Particularly, an insect which lives either upon or within another insect during its earlier stages, eating and usually destroying its host. In botany, a plant which grows upon another plant or upon an animal, and feeds upon its juices. See parasitic, and cut under Cercospora.
  • n. In teratology See autosite.

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

  • n. an animal or plant that lives in or on a host (another animal or plant); it obtains nourishment from the host without benefiting or killing the host
  • n. a follower who hangs around a host (without benefit to the host) in hope of gain or advantage

Etymologies

Latin parasītus, a person who lives by amusing the rich, from Greek parasītos, person who eats at someone else's table, parasite : para-, beside; see para-1 + sītos, grain, food.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin parasitus, from Ancient Greek παράσιτος (parasitos, "person who eats at the table of another"), from noun use of adjective meaning "feeding beside", from παρά (para, "beside") + σῖτος (sitos, "food"). (Wiktionary)

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