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.’
    • ‘There, the salt acts as a magnet, drawing water by osmosis from the blood and other body fluids up through the glands.’
    • ‘Eventually, a pressure difference between the two heights of the solutions occurs which is so large that osmosis cannot continue.’
    • ‘If a solution and solvent or two solutions of different strength are separated by a semi permeable membrane, osmosis can occur.’
    • ‘Therefore, water tends to flow into the cell by osmosis, down its concentration gradient.’
    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’
    • ‘They did not lose their status by osmosis any more than they could gain status by osmosis.’
    • ‘Since there's little, if any, coursework required, call it education by 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘During my time as a model, I learned almost through osmosis because I dealt with people on an ongoing basis,’ she said.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Thomas maintained that she did not devour encyclopaedias for breakfast but picked up her knowledge by osmosis.’
    • ‘By interaction and osmosis, the prevailing attitude shifts from one of doctrine, to that of a general consensus.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Hoberman mounts a catch all analysis of the curious three-way osmosis between Washington, Hollywood and the counter-culture.’
    • ‘He is engraved in the world's pop culture lexicon, absorbed via osmosis by each new generation.’
    • ‘I'd been exposed to the apparel industry through osmosis my entire life.’
    • ‘But officials are loath to discuss the mysterious osmosis that seems to exist between the presidency and government.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The open office is a tremendous opportunity to share knowledge and learn by osmosis.’
    • ‘In other words, information was being transmitted almost by osmosis, encouraging the pursuit of excellence.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Because I was always around yoga, I just kind of picked it up by osmosis.’
    • ‘We've been working together for so long, it's like osmosis.’


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