Definition of lichen in English:


Pronunciation /ˈlɪtʃ(ə)n//ˈlʌɪk(ə)n/


  • 1A simple slow-growing plant that typically forms a low crusty, leaflike, or branching growth on rocks, walls, and trees.

    ‘the cedars are festooned with lichen’
    count noun ‘rocks covered with gold lichens’
    • ‘Despite the wide diversity of the basic growth forms, all lichens have a similar internal morphology.’
    • ‘It is thus important to determine the order of magnitude of the acceleration effect on biogenic weathering by soil microorganisms, lichens and vascular plants.’
    • ‘Although they seem barren, the flat rock outcrops, known as pavement rock, support some lichens and mosses.’
    • ‘The elements and the wood of the tree have fed the lichens and mosses.’
    • ‘There are a lot of mosses and lichens, simple in that respect, but it provides a habitat for such a range and complexity of wildlife that come ashore to breed.’
    • ‘Ancient fluorescent lichens cling to rocks, and fluffy Arctic cotton softens the harshness of the landscape.’
    • ‘A profusion of mosses, liverworts, lichens and ferns cover the woodland floor and festoon tree trunks and branches.’
    • ‘A large number of invertebrates, bryophytes, and lichens are also likely to depend on large dead trees.’
    • ‘In that position it will be only partially visible to visitors and effectively inhibit the growth of lichens.’
    • ‘These include the lichens, mosses and liverworts, all of which are worth a closer look through a magnifying glass in order to appreciate their true beauty.’
    • ‘The primary objective of this study was to document the lichens, bryophytes and vascular plants present at the High Line.’
    • ‘In addition to the algae in lichens, bacteria are invariably associated with the lichen thallus.’
    • ‘Prior to data collection, samples of lichens were collected from tree trunks at twelve of the study sites.’
    • ‘Yellow dyes from native lichens and tree bark were replaced by Old Fustic, a flowering plant, and quercitron bark, both from North America.’
    • ‘The culture in the yoghurt brings up a weather-beaten effect within weeks and encourages the growth of lichens.’
    • ‘I fancy that it had been there long before the avenue was constructed, for the grey tiles were stained with lichens, and the walls were mildewed and discoloured with age.’
    • ‘In contrast to higher plants, lichens and mosses are capable of tolerating full dehydration.’
    • ‘Mosses, ferns and green and white lichens sprawled all over the wet rock wall that bounded the inner curve of the levada.’
    • ‘It seemed incredible that anything could live here, but different-coloured lichens clung to the rocks and gave them their sunset tones.’
    • ‘A special class of these, oleananes, are formed by flowering plants, some ferns and lichens.’
  • 2mass noun, usually with modifier A skin disease in which small, hard round lesions occur close together.

    ‘patients with oral lichen planus’
    • ‘Vulvar symptoms may be caused by an underlying genital dermatological condition, such as dermatitis or lichen sclerosus’
    • ‘Other causes of genital dermatitis, such as lichen planus, can cause similar symptoms.’
    • ‘Dissecting cellulitis, lichen planopilaris, and folliculitis decalvans also may cause scarring alopecia.’
    • ‘The white buccal lesions of oral lichen planus may necessitate biopsy to exclude leukoplakia, candidiasis, and secondary syphilis.’
    • ‘Some authors have speculated that the trauma and increased infection related to sexual abuse may act as a trigger to developing lichen sclerosus, related to Koebnerisation, which is known to occur in this disease.’
    • ‘Signs and symptoms of oral lichen planus may last weeks to months and include a dry or sore mouth, a burning sensation or a metallic taste.’
    • ‘This is fairly common, is seen almost exclusively in women over middle age, and is usually a manifestation of lichen planus or mucous membrane pemphigoid.’
    • ‘However, there is very positive evidence that many oral lichen planus sufferers test as hypersensitive to mercury.’
    • ‘Up to 70 percent of patients with lichen planus may have mucosal involvement.’
    • ‘Thus, the patient should be examined for the characteristic lacy white patterned and erosive lesions of the oral and genital mucosa to rule out lichen planus.’
    • ‘The differential diagnosis includes psoriasis, lichen simplex chronicus, prurigo nodularis, and lichen planus.’
    • ‘The reported rates of association have differed widely, probably because of varying study design, oral versus cutaneous lichen planus and geography.’
    • ‘They are totally benign, although occasional patients or physicians become concerned about them or misdiagnose them as, for example, thrush or lichen planus.’
    • ‘The signs of oral lichen planus are white streaks on the cheeks and gums, which are usually painless and not itchy.’
    • ‘An example is a family of conditions called lichen simplex, lichen sclerosis, and lichen planus.’
    • ‘Patients with localized lichen planus are usually treated with potent topical steroids, while systemic steroids are used to treat patients with generalized lichen planus.’
    • ‘Other rarely reported dermatoses include lichen simplex and impetigo.’
    • ‘Effective treatment of pruritus can prevent scratch-induced complications such as lichen simplex chronicus and impetigo.’
    • ‘My mouth and tongue are severely inflamed and a biopsy has diagnosed lichen planus.’
    • ‘But it may be associated with another inflammatory skin condition called lichen planus.’

Lichens are composite plants consisting of a fungus that contains photosynthetic algal cells. Their classification is based upon that of the fungal partner, which in most cases belongs to the subdivision Ascomycotina, and the algal partners are either green algae or cyanobacteria


Early 17th century: via Latin from Greek leikhēn.