1. The soft, spongy tissue in the center of the stems of most vascular plants, consisting mainly of parenchyma.
a. The soft inner substance of a feather or hair.
b. The spinal cord.
3. The essential or central part; the heart or essence: The pith of your argument is controversial.
4. Strength; vigor; mettle.
5. Significance; importance: matters of great pith.
tr.v. pithed, pith·ing, piths
1. To remove the pith from (a plant stem).
2. To sever or destroy the spinal cord of, usually by inserting a needle into the vertebral canal.
3. To kill (cattle) by cutting the spinal cord.
[Middle English, from Old English pitha.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.