aceph·​a·​lous (ˌ)ā-ˈse-fə-ləs How to pronounce acephalous (audio)
: lacking a head or having the head reduced
: lacking a governing head or chief

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The English word acephalous was borrowed from Medieval Latin, in which it meant "headless" and was chiefly used to describe clerics not under a bishop or lines of verse having the first foot missing or abbreviated. The fountainhead of these meanings is the Greek word kephalē, meaning "head." Other English descendants of kephalē include cephalic, meaning "of or relating to the head" or "directed toward or situated on or in or near the head," and encephalitis, meaning "inflammation of the brain."

Examples of acephalous in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Based in Southeast Nigeria, this industrious and acephalous group has attracted a lot of attention from research in recent years. Nnamdi Madichie, Quartz, 29 Apr. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'acephalous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Medieval Latin acephalus "headless" (originally alluding to clerics not under a bishop), going back to Latin, "lacking the first syllable, in metrics," borrowed from Greek aképhalos, from a- a- entry 2 + -kephalos, adjective derivative of kephalḗ "head" — more at cephalic

First Known Use

1715, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of acephalous was in 1715


Dictionary Entries Near acephalous

Cite this Entry

“Acephalous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jul. 2024.

Medical Definition


aceph·​a·​lous (ˈ)ā-ˈsef-ə-ləs How to pronounce acephalous (audio) ə-ˈsef- How to pronounce acephalous (audio)
: lacking a head or having the head reduced
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