Definitions - e


The part of solid waste composed of grass clippings, leaves, twigs, branches, and other garden refuse.

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The amount that the earth's revolution deviates from a circular path; the variation of an ellipse from a circle, where a circle has an eccentricity of 0.

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Eco Anxiety

Eco-anxiety is a chronic concern over environmental issues. This is not recognized as an official mental disease or dis-order. Rather it is a 'label' given to being overly concerned to the environment and a general feeling of helplessness in how to 'fix' it.

Being concerned about the environment is a good thing; in order to overcome any concerns you may have, we suggest

  • Read the articles on this site (its not as bad as some people are painting it)
  • Educate yourself on the issues at hand. Having a better understanding and knowledge set will allow you to internally 'rationalize' your concerns and work out how to actually do something effective. Do not be blindly guided by others, keep your own council and point of view.

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Eco Architect
An Eco Architect is an architect that specializes in producing designs that should:
  • Minimize environmental impact, across the whole life cycle of the resultant building;
  • Maximize the use of recycled or reclaimed materials;
  • Minimize the operational costs of the buildings by employing energy efficiency techniques in the building design.

The end result should be a building which is good for the environment and cheap to live in.

Although, with the increased focus on being green in building, quite often regular architects either have direct 'eco' experience or have access to experts or resources to assist them - so do not select on the basis of an architect being eco alone.

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Eco Architecture

Eco Architecture refers to designing buildings with a strong green and environmental element to them; e.g sustainable and minimizing the environmental impact of the final design.

Note: This does not necessarily mean existing buildings cannot be made more 'eco' rather this is focused on taking a new building and designing it from the ground up to be more eco friendly. When building it pays to consider the benefits of reusing an existing structure over knocking down and replacing it.

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Eco Conscious

Being an informed purchaser. Knowing or having an understanding of what effect what you are doing, buying or using has on the environment.

Note: This is not just buying 'eco-friendly' or 'green' products or services, rather you have a more direct appreciation of your impact on the environment based on knowledge & act accordingly.

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Eco Friendly

This refers to a product or service having minimal impact on the environment in its provision. Unfortunately how 'minimal' is determined is somewhat open to interpretation and often depends upon context. This is also a phase that is often hijacked as part of a green washing campaign; so double check any claims.

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Eco Fusion

A very fuzzy 'Eco Marketing' term used to represent the fusion of many disciplines (including education, training, experience, materials availability, and eco inventions); on the premise that we need to tightly merge those disciplines to solely focus on 'improving the environment' in light of climate change. Often used to contrast against more loosely coupled business processes and distinct disciplines as being more 'green'; when often the real motivator is for the Eco Fusion advocate to 'control' more of the purchasing and business process for direct profit; in essence a form of ecofraud.

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Eco Graffiti

Mud stencils that create messages made of natural plants such as moss, intended for art and social justice, not advertisement.

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Eco Lights

Eco Lighting is lighting which is both energy efficient and has a light burden on the environment, i.e. they are easy to recycle and repair.

Eco Lighting can also refer to smart lighting that is able to reduce its energy consumption in response to its need, i.e. lights that automatically turn off when people leave a room.

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Eco Marketing

This is when a business deliberately markets itself as being 'eco' above and beyond the core functions or services of the business; when in actuality the business is not eco at all. This form of ecofraud is done to  firstly pray on peoples tendency to assume anything eco is good; then secondly to utilise people's tendency not to question anything eco to sell on its core functions or services easily to eco minded people.

As we always recommend, make sure you have the real facts at hand (look on this site and use our search engine) and always shop around and do not over prefer the 'eco businesses' - quite a few businesses now are eco minded without feeling the need to promote it.

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Eco Tourism

Travel that entails destinations where natural and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Typically including environmental awareness aspects of the locale.

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Eco Village

An Eco Village is usually a planned development of a set of properties which have a combined low environmental impact. Either implemented by a developer or by a set of individuals. The resultant properties can range from being very traditional to totally unique depending on planning requirements and available resources.

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Eco Warrior

A person actively involved in preventing damage to the environment

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An eco-architect is someone in the building design field (architecture) who either has specific training in designing eco-friendly houses, or equivalent accumulative knowledge.

This used to be quite a specialist field, as the methods and techniques employed were only understood by a minority of architects and designers; although now the ability to create eco-friendly houses can be enacted often by a regular architect, designer or drafts person using either specific software applications or following well understood principals of eco-friendly design (such as passive solar). Also the increased focus by local goverments through planning law on green building has made it almost universal that all architects or designers have had some experience with eco-friendly design.

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An evaluation of your home or workplace with the aim of cutting your energy and water usage.

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An ethically and organically made bag for use instead of plastic carrier bags. 

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A bus which uses a combination of diesel and electric power sources.

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A product or good that is both eco-friendly and hip.

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A textile product using PET (Recyclable plastic bottles) and processed to create fibres to be knitted or woven into the fabric.

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having a serious concern for environmental issues: ecocentric management.

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Ecodesign is an approach to design of a product with special consideration for the environmental impacts of the product during its whole life cycle. In a life cycle assessment the life cycle of a product is usually divided into procurement, manufacture, use and disposal.

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Term introduced (“ecofeminisme”) by Francois d’Eaubonne in the 1974 text Le Feminisme ou la Mort. Dissatisfied with ecological analyses that leave patriarchy out of account, ecofeminists out parallels between how men in the West mistreat women and how they mistreat the Earth: in both cases a relationship of power, control, a will to dominate, and a pervasive fear of of the fact of interdependency. A twist on this is the patriarchal habit of objectifying women while feminizing the environment; women are then seen as less mature or human because "closer to nature."

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This term is associated with a business/group or individual who engages in or who presents themselves as being a subscriber to sound science based eco and environmental principals; when in fact they are either:

a) solely being 'Eco' for personal or monetary gain, with little real regard for any eco or environmental principals or,
b) totally misrepresenting, misapplying or distorting sound scientific based eco and environmental principals to add weight to an argument or issue.

The first case is usually very deliberate in intent; whereas with the second case, a person or group can be 'duped' into believing and then promoting an 'eco fact' - when in fact it may have little empirical or scientific basis when the bigger picture (either in time or space) is considered.

This in itself is nothing new, misquoted and misunderstood information abounds in everyday life; but what is concerning is the degree of lack of question and real knowledge share that often occurs when people are confronted with an 'Eco fact'; please demand to be informed. Remember: a decision based on ecofraud info could well be doing longer term harm to our Environment.

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Environmentally friendly (eco-friendly and nature friendly) are synonyms used to refer to goods and services considered to inflict minimal harm on the environment.

To make consumers aware, environmentally friendly goods and services are often marked with eco-labels. But because there is no single international standard for this concept, the International Organization for Standardization considers such labels too vague to be meaningful.

See wikipedia.

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An Ecohome is a house which has been designed from the ground up to be environmentally friendly whilst at the same time energy efficient.

Usually this requires a custom build  (which can be expensive); although with some careful thinking it is possible to make an existing property more eco friendly whilst preserving the embedded energy incurred when it was built. Too often existing properties are demolished that could have been made 'good' with a bit thought.

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A seal of approval (or certification) of a product, process or service complying with a particular set of agreed environmental criteria usually awarded by an impartial third party (certification company).

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Ecological Dimension

The ecological dimension describes the relationship between people and the environment and the effect that they have on each other in turn.

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Ecological Impact

The effect that a man-caused or natural activity has on living organisms and their non-living (abiotic) environment.

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Ecological Succession

This is the gradual and orderly process of change in an ecosystem brought about by the progressive replacement of one community by another until a stable climax is established.

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Ecological Sustainability

Capacity of ecosystems to maintain their essential functions and processes, and retain their biodiversity in full measure over the long-term.

Essentially it refers to the ability of an ecological system to 'keep running' over long time scales, such as centuries or longer.

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Ecologically Sustainable Development

Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) is where development is undertaken in such a way that the needs of the present at met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

In effect the whole development is looked at to assess and 'balance' the impact of the development on the ecological processes which we in turn all depend upon now and in the future.

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Alternative spelling of ecology - see ecologie wikipedia entry.

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A scientist who studies organisms and their environment.

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Ecology is the scientific study of the distribution and abundance of life and the interactions between organisms and their natural environment.

Wikipedia Entry

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Economic Poisons

Chemicals used to control pests and to defoliate cash crops such as cotton.

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Economic Potential

The portion of the technical potential for GHG emissions reductions or energy-efficiency improvements that could be achieved cost-effectively in the absence of market barriers. The achievement of the economic potential requires additional policies and measures to break down market barriers.

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Ecosmart refers to a system or service that has been designed to incorporate 'smarts' into its design to actively manage and reduce its impact on environment. This can be done using a mix of static and dynamic features. 

A static feature could be the use of high R insulation or a building orientation to maximize solar gain. A dynamic feature could be energy management that is aware of usage and how environmentally friendly a given energy source is compared to its usage. This could be as simple as lights that turn themselves off when nobody is in a room.

Ecosmart could also refer to the consideration of the whole life cycle of a given product, so it does not contribute to E-waste, is repairable and ultimately recyclable. 

Ecosmart design can also be applied to a whole building or structure, such as someone's house, using a variety of smart subsystems grouped together to create an automated environmental benefit.

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The "bio-bubble" that contains life on earth, in surface waters, and in the air.

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 The conversion of salt or brackish water into usable fresh water. Distillation is the most common commercial method; heat from the Sun or conventional fuels vaporizes brine, the vapor condensing into fresh water on cooling. Reverse osmosis and electrodialysis both remove salt from water by the use of semipermeable membranes; these processes are more suitable for brackish water. Pure water crystals may also be separated from brine by freezing.

The biggest problem holding back the wider adoption of desalination techniques is that of how to meet the high energy costs of all such processes. Only where energy is relatively cheap and water particularly scarce is desalination economic, and even then complex energy conservation procedures must be built into the plant.

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Eco-terrorism, also called ecoterrorism or green terrorism, is terrorism committed in support of ecological, environmental, or animal rights causes. The word is a neologism and its application is contested.

See wikipedia.

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A habitat created by the juxtaposition of distinctly different habitats; an edge habitat; or an ecological zone or boundary where two or more ecosystems meet.

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See Eco Tourism.

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Being poisonous or harmful to plants or animals in some degree.

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Effective Emissivity

A correction factor, dependent on the radiational characteristics of the Earth-atmosphere system, that permits application of black body radiation laws to the Earth-atmosphere system

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The amount of energy service or useful energy delivered per unit of energy input. Often used in reference to lighting systems, where the visible light output of a luminary is relative to power input; expressed in lumens per Watt; the higher the efficacy value, the higher the energy efficiency.

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El Nino

A warming of the surface waters of the eastem equatorial Pacific that occurs at irregular intervals of 2-7 years, usually lasting 1-2 years. Along the west coast of South America, southerly winds promote the upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water that sustains large fish populations, that sustain abundant sea birds, whose droppings support the fertilizer industry Near the end of each calendar year; a warm current of nutrient-poor tropical water replaces the cold, nutrient-rich surface water Because this condition often occurs around Christmas, it was named El Niho (Spanish for boy child, referring to the Christ child). In most years the warming lasts only a few weeks or a month, after which the weather patterns return to normal and fishing improves. However; when El Nino conditions last for many months, more extensive ocean warming occurs and economic results can be disastrous. El Nino has been linked to wetter; colder winters in the United States; drier; hotter summers in South America and Europe; and drought in Africa.

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Electronic Waste

See definition of e-waste.

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Embodied Energy

All the energy used to grow, extract and manufacture a product including the amount of energy needed to transport it to the job site and complete the installation.

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Emergent Layer

A forest's upper layer, 200 feet above the forest floor, produced by the tallest trees, often with trunks that measure up to 16 feet around. Most of these trees are broad-leaved, hardwood evergreens. It is very sunny at the top and only the strongest and tallest plants reach this level. 

This is the tallest layer in the rain forest. It is made up of a few wide, tall trees that grow taller than the canopy layer. These trees have small waxy leaves in order to survive in the very hot weather

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Emission Permit

A non-transferable or trade-able allocation of entitlements by a government to an individual firm to emit a specific amount of a substance.

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Emission Quota

The portion or share of total allowable emissions assigned to a country or group of countries within a framework of maximum total emissions and mandatory allocations of resources or assessments.

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 The conversion of salt or brackish water into usable fresh water. Distillation is the most common commercial method; heat from the Sun or conventional fuels vaporizes brine, the vapor condensing into fresh water on cooling. Reverse osmosis and electrodialysis both remove salt from water by the use of semipermeable membranes; these processes are more suitable for brackish water. Pure water crystals may also be separated from brine by freezing.

The biggest problem holding back the wider adoption of desalination techniques is that of how to meet the high energy costs of all such processes. Only where energy is relatively cheap and water particularly scarce is desalination economic, and even then complex energy conservation procedures must be built into the plant.

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Emissions Cap

A limit placed on companies regarding the amount of greenhouse gases (or other polutants) it can emit.

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Emissions Leakage

This is a concept often used by policymakers in reference to the problem that emissions abatement achieved in one location may be offset by increased emissions in unregulated locations. Such leakage can arise, for example, in the short term as emissions abaters reduce energy demand or timber supply, influencing world prices for these commodities and increasing the quantity emitted elsewhere; and it can arise in the longer term, for example, as industries relocate to avoid controls.

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Emissions Trading

This is an economic incentive-based alternative to command-and-control regulation. In an emissions trading program, sources of a particular pollutant (most often an air pollutant) are given permits to release a specified number of tons of the pollutant. The government issues only a limited number of permits consistent with the desired level of emissions. The owners of the permits may keep them and release the pollutants, or reduce their emissions and sell the permits. The fact that the permits have value as an item to be sold or traded gives the owner an incentive to reduce their emissions.

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Emissions Trading

Emissions trading or cap and trade is usually a government-mandated, market-based approach to controlling pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants.

This is often associated with carbon trading to allow polluters to 'offset' their pollution by buying equivalent carbon credits.

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The ratio of the radiation emitted by a surface to the radiation emitted by a blackbody  at the same temperature.

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The rate at which a black body radiates energy across all wave-lengths.

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Describes a species threatened with immediate extinction throughout all or most of its range owing to the actions of people.

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Energy Audit

A survey that shows how much energy used in a home, which helps find ways to use less energy.

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Energy Crops

Crops grown specifically for their fuel value. These include food crops such as corn and sugarcane and nonfood crops such as poplar trees and switch-grass.

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Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency is when you use less energy to accomplish the same task, for example heating your home or washing clothes. Using less energy by being more efficient means less air pollution and lower costs.

To save energy in your home, you can use weather stripping, solar water heating, passive solar or compact fluorescent light bulbs. Also when shopping for household appliances, look for the Energy Star to find appliances that use less energy and lower your electricity costs.

You can also reduce your heating and cooling costs by installing better insulation.

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Energy Efficient Appliances

Electrical devices or appliances that perform their task, and use less electricity than lower-efficient devices. Electrical inefficiency in many devices is directly related to the heat they produce. For example, energy efficient light bulbs use most of the incoming electrical energy to produce light, not heat.

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Energy Payback

This refers to the amount of time required for a solar panel to generate the amount of energy it took to manufacture it. Modern PV panels can have an energy payback of 1 to 3 years depending on where they are installed; over a 30+ year life span, a PV system could return 10 to 30 times the energy that went into making it.

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Energy Rebound

Where installing energy-efficient appliances leads to an increase in energy use; because being energy-efficient makes energy cheaper, or makes consumers feel less guilty about using energy.

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Energy Security

This is a term used to describe a variety of issues from the economic cost of oil supply disruptions to the cost of military expenditures to secure international trade.

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The mixing of environmental air into a preexisting air current or cloud so that the environmental air becomes part of the current or cloud.

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The biophysical environment is the symbiosis between the physical environment and the biological life forms within the environment, and includes all variables that comprise the Earth's biosphere.

Wikipedia Entry

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Environmental Ethics

A search for moral values and ethical principles in human relations with the natural world.

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Environmental Fate

Where a substance ends up after it is released into the environment. Environmental fate depends on many factors, including transport (e.g., wind, runoff) and transformation processes (e.g., degradation).

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Environmental Impact

Any change to the environment whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from human activity, industry or natural disasters.

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Environmental Management System

A environmental management system (EMS) is a standard system of business operation that considers all aspects of sustainable business in the day to day running of a business, such as ISO 14001.

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Environmental Medium

A major environmental category that surrounds or contacts humans, animals, plants, and other organisms (e.g. surface water, ground water, soil or air) and through which chemicals or pollutants move.

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Environmental Pollution

Environmental Pollution refers to the presence or introduction of known pollutants into an environment that result in a degrading of the environmental biosphere in terms of size, variety and longevity/sustainability.

In particular such pollution tends to stay within an environment for an extended period of time (many years) without specific steps to reduce or remove it. In essence the natural ability of the environment to 'clean itself' is unable to cope with the pollution and significant damage results.

Examples of such pollution includes (but not limited to):
  • Fertilizer runoff - where fertilizer escapes from farmed land into wild environments and modifies the native/weed balance.
  • Pesticides residue - pesticides can make their way into the food chain and become concentrated.
  • Heavy metals/plastics - again can be concentrated in the food chain and have an adverse effect on longevity and reproduction.
  • Tailing spills - mining bi-products leaching.
  • Waste dump leaching - not properly isolated from the water table or illegal dumping.
A key aspect of such pollution is that it tends to accumulative and can be multi-factored, in that one act of pollution can cause a chain reaction that degrades multiple biospheres over time. Also such pollution can be readily attributed to a specific pollution act or occurrence, e.g. there is a clear provable chain of cause and effect.

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Environmental Racism

Racial discrimination takes many insidious forms. This term refers to a situation in which industrial operations, environmental policymaking, and the enforcement (or lack of enforcement) of environmental laws unfairly impact a particular race of people, either intentionally or unintentionally. Examples include the locating of hazardous waste landfills in minority communities, and the exclusion of minorities in environmental policy-making leadership.

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Environmentally Preferable

Products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on the environment.

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Plants that emerge and bloom during one season, then die back for the remainder of the year. Many spring ephemerals bloom in woodlands, including trillium and ladyslipper.

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Equilibrium Response

The steady state response of the climate system (or a climate model) To an imposed radiative forcing.

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The wearing away of soil, rock, and sediments, etc. by the action of wind, rain, and other weather-related elements.

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To spend the summer in a sleeplike condition of partial or total inactivity.

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Ethical Investment

Ethical investment refers to investment which takes into account all the effects of the investment, both positive and negative to people, the environment and quality of life in general. Such investment aim to therefore be 'ethical' in how they invest, as opposed to other forms of investment by implication which are not ethical.

Note: An ethical investment does not provide a greater power to grow wealth, rather it is a choice taken by the investor in what they are willing to investment in, and hence it is a marketing exercise - the risk and benefits mix is not considered as to whether an investment is 'ethical'.

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Eutrophic Lake

Shallow, murky bodies of water that have excessive concentrations of plant nutrients causing excessive algal production.

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Enrichment of water, which causes excessive growth of aquatic plants and increasing activity of anaerobic microrganisms. As a result the oxygen levels in the water quickly decline and the water chokes, making life impossible for aerobic water organisms.

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Evacuated Tube

An evacuated tube is most often encountered in solar hot water heating systems. This is where a glass tube is used, with a good heat conductor placed in the middle of it. All the air is removed from the tube, so that when the Sun light hits the heat conductor no heat is then lost out to the tube itself. This way the maximum amount of heat is caught and sent up the heat conductor to then heat the water passing over at the top of the tube.

The other advantage with this approach is that the tube will be placed to be always inline with the Sun as it move through the sky, i.e. no matter where the Sun is the central conductor will present the same surface area to heat.

Often these heating systems are so efficient, that over temperature valves and safety guards need to be put into the installed system.

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The loss of water from a land area through evaporation from the soil and through plant transpiration.

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Plants whose leaf cover remains alive year-round, though individual leaves may die and fall. Includes species, such as Rhododendron, whose leaves go dormant and change color at the end of the growing season, then green up again for the new season. Other evergreens, such as Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine), discard batches of leaves periodically. Evergreens may have needles (pine and spruce, for instance) or "broad" leaves (holly and rhododendron). Perennial plants whose leaves all die at once (and usually fall) at the end of each growing season (i.e. maple trees) are deciduous.

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 The conversion of salt or brackish water into usable fresh water. Distillation is the most common commercial method; heat from the Sun or conventional fuels vaporizes brine, the vapor condensing into fresh water on cooling. Reverse osmosis and electrodialysis both remove salt from water by the use of semipermeable membranes; these processes are more suitable for brackish water. Pure water crystals may also be separated from brine by freezing.

The biggest problem holding back the wider adoption of desalination techniques is that of how to meet the high energy costs of all such processes. Only where energy is relatively cheap and water particularly scarce is desalination economic, and even then complex energy conservation procedures must be built into the plant.

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This is the process by which low-lying clouds are produced from water evaporation off plants, which take their water from the soil. The clouds so produced can help reflect the sun's rays, causing atmospheric cooling..

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Materials used to generate heat in chemical or other processes.

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Exotic Species

An introduced species, plant or animal that is not native to a geographic area or ecosystem.

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Exposure Pathway

The path from sources of pollutants via, soil, water, or food to man and other species or settings.

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A cost or benefit not accounted for in the price of goods or services. Often "externality" refers to the cost of pollution and other environmental impacts.

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In meteorology, the area north of the Tropic of Cancer and the area south of the Tropic of Capricorn. In other words, the area outside the tropics.

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Extreme Weather Event

A manifestation of weather which is rare within its statistical distribution on a particular location. By rare one usually means rarer than the 90th percentile. The characteristics of extreme weather vary according to the location.

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Click on a letter to see all the terms and definitions that begin with that letter.

A free Android app containing all these definitions is now available, called the Green Dictionary. Click here to see the entry on the Android market; or click here if on an Android phone.