Definition of osmosis in US English:



  • 1Chemistry Biology
    A process by which molecules of a solvent tend to pass through a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated solution into a more concentrated one, thus equalizing the concentrations on each side of the membrane.

    • ‘By means of osmosis, the high concentration of sugar in the solution draws wastes, chemicals and extra water from the tiny blood vessels in your peritoneal membrane into the solution.’
    • ‘Therefore, water tends to flow into the cell by osmosis, down its concentration gradient.’
    • ‘Eventually, a pressure difference between the two heights of the solutions occurs which is so large that osmosis cannot continue.’
    • ‘There, the salt acts as a magnet, drawing water by osmosis from the blood and other body fluids up through the glands.’
    • ‘If a solution and solvent or two solutions of different strength are separated by a semi permeable membrane, osmosis can occur.’
    soaking up, sucking up, drawing in, drawing up, taking in, taking up, blotting up, mopping up, sponging up, sopping up
    View synonyms
  • 2The process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc.

    ‘what she knows of the blue-blood set she learned not through birthright, not even through wealth, but through osmosis’
    • ‘In other words, information was being transmitted almost by osmosis, encouraging the pursuit of excellence.’
    • ‘Her first set was a combination of songs Eliza had absorbed from her famous parents through osmosis, a Billy Brag number and tracks from her new album, Anglicana.’
    • ‘Pop culture icons have always been part of the zeitgeist; they seep in through visual osmosis.’
    • ‘Apparently through osmosis they have come up with separate themes to pursue.’
    • ‘Since there's little, if any, coursework required, call it education by osmosis.’
    • ‘Thomas maintained that she did not devour encyclopaedias for breakfast but picked up her knowledge by osmosis.’
    • ‘Hoberman mounts a catch all analysis of the curious three-way osmosis between Washington, Hollywood and the counter-culture.’
    • ‘We've been working together for so long, it's like osmosis.’
    • ‘I mean, I've got this theory that if you watch a lot of sport on television, by some sort of strange process of osmosis you think you play a lot of sport.’
    • ‘The open office is a tremendous opportunity to share knowledge and learn by osmosis.’
    • ‘They did not lose their status by osmosis any more than they could gain status by osmosis.’
    • ‘Because I was always around yoga, I just kind of picked it up by osmosis.’
    • ‘During my time as a model, I learned almost through osmosis because I dealt with people on an ongoing basis,’ she said.’
    • ‘As has often been stated by historians working on the history of religion, new forms of deities and new rituals were possibly contributed through this osmosis.’
    • ‘I'd been exposed to the apparel industry through osmosis my entire life.’
    • ‘Political parties and city politics are not good bedfellows, but the city keeps getting dragged into the mix like there's some principle of osmosis at work.’
    • ‘By interaction and osmosis, the prevailing attitude shifts from one of doctrine, to that of a general consensus.’
    • ‘But officials are loath to discuss the mysterious osmosis that seems to exist between the presidency and government.’
    • ‘He is engraved in the world's pop culture lexicon, absorbed via osmosis by each new generation.’
    • ‘Of course, you can always wait two or three years and hope your child will pick up reading through osmosis and mass whole-language drill.’


Mid 19th century: Latinized form of earlier osmose, from Greek ōsmos ‘a push’.