I have found that the term "organism" does not originate from any writings of Aristotle or some other ancient Greek, though Aristotle freely uses the term "organon", spelled "organ" in English, to denote a part of a living being or of man in particular.

It is obvious that the term is of late origin by some European scholar. Wikipedia states that it "first appeared in the English language in 1701 and took on its current definition by 1834 (Oxford English Dictionary)". Still, no specific reference is provided.

Who first used the term "organism" and when and where was it used?


The OED’s 1701 citation (the earliest) is from Nehemiah Grew’s Cosmologia sacra: or a discourse of the universe. It reads:

It is the advantagious Organism of the Eye, by which that is procured.

At the time, it meant Organic structure.

The 1834 citation is from Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London and reads:

The introduction of new powers into an organism necessarily requires a modification in its mode of development.

The meaning there is An individual animal, plant, or single-celled life form. Also: the material structure of such an individual; an instance of this.


First of all, etymoline.com says:

1660s, "organic structure, organization," from organize (q.v.). Sense of "living animal or plant" first recorded 1842.

The earliest I found in Google Books is 1715's Philosophical Principles of Religion: Natural and Revealed: in Two Parts, Parts 1-2 by George Cheyne:

By this Principle, as a Key, the whole Phyhsophy, of Humane Nature, of the Animal, Rational, and Divine Life, of the Passions, and Affections of the Soul, and even of the Organism of the Body, so far as it is Just and Genuine, ...

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