Listed below is a collection of some of the most important science vocabulary words used in our class. This page is updated periodically, so be sure to refresh your browser every now and then. If you don’t see a word you are looking for, try visiting Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary (a dictionary for younger science students) or any of the online dictionaries recommended by Dr. Merritt.

ABCD | EFG | HIJK | LMNOP | QRS | TUV | WXY&Z | 123s | Roots


  • QUARTZ: a mineral composed of silicon (Si) and oxygen (O) atoms in an arrangement that is given an overall chemical formula of SiO2. Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in Earth’s continental crust, behind feldspar (i.e., rocks containing silicon, aluminum, and oxygen plus either calcium, potassium, and/or sodium).


  • RADICLE (or SEED ROOT): the root of the embryo. It absorbs water, as well as the  minerals dissolved in the water. It also anchors the young plant into the ground.
  • RADICULA: same as radicle (see above).
  • RAW MATERIAL: the basic or unprocessed material, or materials, from which a product is made.
  • RECEPTACLE: that part of the flower in which all of the parts of the flower come together (usually at the base of the flower).
  • RETINA: the lining (tissue) of the back of eye containing two types of light receptor cells–rod cells and cone cells (or rods and cones). It receives/detects light from the pupil, transforms light into electronic pulses, and then sends the electronics signals to the optic nerve.
  • RIFFLE (in stream or river): a reach of stream that is characterized by shallow, fast-moving water broken by the presence of rocks and boulders.
  • ROCK: a natural, solid substance consisting of one or more minerals (naturally occurring crystalline substances) or mineraloids (naturally occurring non-crystalline substances). The three major groups of rocks are igneoussedimentary, and metamorphic. Rock is also sometimes referred to as stone.
  • ROOT(s): the part of the plant, usually below the ground, that anchors the plant and absorbs and transports water and minerals up the plant to other structures, for example, the leaves.
  • ROOT HAIR(s): the small structures growing out of the roots which absorb water and minerals for the plant. 
  • ROOT VEGETABLE(s): the fleshy, enlarged root of a plant used by the plant for storage of carbohydrates produced during photosynthesis. Examples of root vegetables include carrots, potatoes, beetroots, ginger, garlic, shallots, onions, radishes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, rutabagas, turmeric, and many more.
  • RUN (in stream or river): a reach of stream characterized by fast-flowing, low turbulence water.


  • SALIVA: the watery liquid secreted into the mouth by glands, providing lubrication for chewing and swallowing, and aiding digestion.
  • SALIVARY DUCT(S): in animal bodies, ducts are vessels (tubes) for carrying liquid chemicals. The salivary ducts are vessels (tubes) for carrying saliva and delivering it to the mouth.
  • SALIVARY GLAND(S): glands are organs in animal bodies which secrete chemical substances for use in the body. The salivary glands are chemical-producing organs that produce saliva, which is a water-based liquid.
  • SAND: a granular (or grainy) material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. It is typically defined by size–it is finer than gravel and coarser than silt. The composition of sand varies, but the most common elements found in sand include silicon and oxygen (usually in the form of quartz). The second most common elements found in sand include calcium and carbon (usually in the form of calcium carbonate).
  • SATURATED: a solid, liquid or gas(eous) solution containing the maximum amount of solute capable of being dissolved in the solution under the given conditions.
  • SECONDARY CONSUMER: animals that are specially adapted to a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue.
  • SEDIMENT (rock sediment): a naturally occurring solid material that is broken down by processes of physical, chemical, and/or biological weathering and erosion. Sediments are most often transported by water, but also by wind and glaciers. Some common rock sediments include sand, silt, and clay.
  • SEED(s): 1) a small object produced by a plant from which a new plant can grow, or 2) a mature structure formed by the fertilization of an ovule (egg).
  • SEED COAT (or TESTA): the outermost layer of a seed. It helps protect the inner part of the seed from other living (e.g., insects and bacteria) and non-living (e.g., cold temperatures) things.
  • SEED ROOT (or RADICLE): the root of the embryo. It absorbs water, as well as the  minerals dissolved in the water. It also anchors the young plant into the ground.
  • SEEDLING: a very young plant that is grown from a seed and not from a ‘cutting.’
  • SEPAL: one of the outermost flower structures which usually enclose and protect the other flower parts before the flower opens.
  • SHOOT: the above-ground portion of a vascular plant, such as the stem and leaves.
  • SILT: a granular (or grainy) material of a size between sand and clay, whose mineral origin is quartz (SiO2and feldspar (i.e., rocks containing silicon, aluminum, and oxygen plus either calcium, potassium, and/or sodium).
  • SIMPLE SUGAR(s): a sugar like glucose, sucrose, or fructose, which cannot be broken down into other molecules that we would still consider sugars. Simple sugars are thus the simplest group of carbohydrates.
  • SOIL: a mixture of organic matter, minerals (e.g., sand, silt, clay), gases (such as O2 and CO2), liquids (such as H2O), and living organisms that together support life. You might think of all of the Earth’s existing soil as making up a pedosphere (ped- means foot, feet). Soil has four important functions: 1) it is a medium for plant growth, 2) it is a means of water storage, supply, and purification, 3) it is a modifier of Earth’s atmosphere, and 4) it is a habitat for living organisms.
  • SOLID: a state of matter in which the particles (e.g., atoms or molecules) vibrate about fixed positions and cannot migrate to other positions in the substance.
  • SOLUBILITYthe quality or property of being soluble. In other words, possessing the capability of being dissolved.
  • SOLUTE: the substance–whether a solid, liquid, or gas–that is dissolved in a solution. Compared to the amount of solvent present in a solution, the solute is always present in a lesser amount.
  • SOLUTION: in chemistry, a solution is a homogeneous mixture of two or more substances. Keep in mind that a solution may exist in any phase: solid, liquid, or gas.
  • SOLVENTthe substance–whether a solid, liquid, or gas–in which the solute is being dissolved. Compared to the amount of solute present in a solution, the solvent is always present in a greater amount.
  • STAMEN: the male organ of a flower which produces pollen. It typically consists of two parts: the anther and the filament.
  • STARCH(es): a carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose molecules joined by chemical bonds. Starches are made by most green plants as storage molecules for the products of photosynthesis. They are commonly stored in root vegetables.
  • STEM: the vertical part of the plant (usually above ground) in which substances such as water, dissolved minerals, and food are transported up and down the plant.
  • STIGMA (1): the ‘sticky’ surface of the pistil to which the pollen adheres.
  • STIGMA (2): also sometimes called the eyespot, the stigma is a heavily pigmented (darkened or colored) region in certain one-celled organisms whose main function is to detect light.
  • STOMATA: the tiny, microscopic openings found on leaves (and stems) through which gases (such as CO2 and O2) and water vapor pass. One opening = “stoma”, two or more openings = “stomata.”
  • STREAM: a general term for a body of water flowing by gravity; natural watercourse containing water at least part of the year.
  • STREAM BANK: the side slopes of an active stream channel between which the stream flow is normally confined.  Sometimes scientists talk about stream banks as having two distinct areas or regions, “upper” and “lower” banks.
  • STREAM BED: the bottom of the stream channel through which a natural stream of water runs (or used to run, as when in a ‘dry’ stream bed).
  • STREAM CHANNEL: a long, narrow depression shaped by the concentrated flow of a stream and covered continuously (or periodically) by water.
  • STYLE: the slender column located near the top of the ovary and through which pollen tubes grow.
  • SUBSTANCE: in our class we usually mean “chemical substance” when we talk about a substance.  A chemical substance is a form of matter (substances can be solid, liquid, gas or plasma) that can only be separated by breaking its chemical bonds.  Water is a good example of a chemical substance: it can exist in the 3 main states of matter (solid, liquid, gas), and it can only be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen by breaking the bonds between these two types of atoms. Chemical substances are often called ‘pure substances’ to set them apart from mixtures.
  • SUGAR: any naturally occurring molecule containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that forms crystals during evaporation and can be dissolved in solution. Sugars also typically have a sweet taste and are classified as carbohydrates. Glucose and sucrose are two types of common sugars but there are others (e.g., fructose, lactose, etc.).
  • SUSPENSORY LIGAMENTS: a type of tissue connecting the ciliary muscles to the (eye) lens. These ligaments help hold the lens in place and they slacken or stretch as the ciliary muscles contract or relax. The result of these movements is an adjustment the thickness and curvature of the lens.

ABCD | EFG | HIJK | LMNOP | QRS | TUV | WXY&Z | 123s | Roots

Last updated: March 2021

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