One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Originally: an animal thought to resemble or have certain characteristics of a plant or flower. In later use (usually in plural): specifically any animal belonging to the (former) group Zoophyta, comprising certain sessile invertebrate animals, typically with a branching or radiating structure, such as crinoids, hydrozoans, sponges, and bryozoans.
Early 17th century. From post-classical Latin zoophyton from Hellenistic Greek ζῳόϕυτον plant from ancient Greek ζῳο- + ϕυτόν plant.
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