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Definition & Meaning: Ecto- Word Root

The term ecto- is derived from the Greek word ektos which means “outside” or “external.” Many words derive their meaning from this root word. For example, the word ectoderm refers to the outermost layer of cells and tissues in an embryo during early development.

To have a better understanding, let’s break down the word ectoderm:

  • Ecto: Outer
  • Derm: Skin
  • Ectoderm: Outermost layer of the cells underlying the embryo

Example Sentence: There is some evidence that in this group the ectoderm of the oesophagus is chiefly concerned with digestion.

Diagram showing the meanings of words derived from the "ecto-" root word, including ectoderm, ectomorph, and ectoparasite.

Words Based on the Ecto- Word Root

Commonly Used Words Based on the Ecto- Word Root

  • Ectoderm: The outermost layer of cells or tissue of an embryo in early development, or the parts derived from this, which include the epidermis, nerve tissue, and nephridia.
  • Ectomorph: A person with a lean and delicate build of body.
  • Ectoparasite: A parasite, such as a flea, that lives on the outside of its host.
  • Ectoplasm: The more viscous, clear outer layer of the cytoplasm in amoeboid cells.
  • Ectotherm: An animal that is dependent on external sources of body heat.

Archaic Words Based on the Ecto- Word Root:

  • Ectozoa: Any animal parasite, as the louse, that lives on the surface of its host (opposed to entozoon).

Technical Words/Jargon Based on the Ecto- Word Root

  • Ectomere: Any of the blastomeres that later develop into ectoderm.
  • Ectopia: A displacement or malposition of an organ or other body part, which is then referred to as ectopic.
  • Ectotrophic: Growing outside the root or between the cells.
  • Ectoantigen: Any antigen that is attached to the outside of a bacterium.
  • Ectocardia: A congenital displacement of the heart.
  • Ectophyte: Any plant that lives as a parasite on the surface of another organism.
  • Ectocornea: The outer layer of the cornea.

Related Word Roots

Exploring related word roots offers further insights into the linguistic tapestry of English:

  • Exo-: Meaning “outside” or “external.”
    • Exoskeleton: An external skeleton that supports and protects an animal’s body.
    • Exogenous: Originating from outside an organism.
  • Extra-: Meaning “beyond” or “outside.”
    • Extraterrestrial: Of or from outside the earth or its atmosphere.
    • Extraneous: Irrelevant or unrelated to the subject being dealt with.

Want to explore more Word Roots?

Explore Our Full Word Roots Section

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