1. A group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole, especially:
a. An organism as a whole, especially with regard to its vital processes or functions: The animal's entire system seems to be affected by the disease.
b. A group of physiologically or anatomically related organs or parts: the excretory system; a root system.
c. A group of interacting mechanical or electrical components: the building's heating system.
d. A network of structures and channels, as for communication, travel, or distribution: a highway system.
e. A network of related computer software, hardware, and data transmission devices.
a. An organized set of interrelated ideas or principles: Kant's philosophical system.
b. A social, economic, or political organizational form: the feudal system.
a. An arrangement or configuration of classification or measurement: the taxonomic system; the metric system.
b. An organized and coordinated method; a procedure: We have an efficient system for processing returned merchandise. See Synonyms at method.
a. A naturally occurring group of objects or phenomena: a cave system; a weather system.
b. Geology A set of rock strata grouped by geologic time period and divided into series.
5. Harmonious interaction or order: a restaurant kitchen that was completely without system.
6. The prevailing social order; the establishment. Used with the: You can't beat the system.
[Late Latin systēma, systēmat-, from Greek sustēma, from sunistanai, to combine : sun-, syn- + histanai, set up, establish; see stā- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
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.