an·​thro·​pol·​o·​gy | \ ˌan(t)-thrə-ˈpä-lə-jē How to pronounce anthropology (audio) \

Definition of anthropology

1 : the science of human beings especially : the study of human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture
2 : theology dealing with the origin, nature, and destiny of human beings

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Other Words from anthropology

anthropological \ ˌan(t)-​thrə-​pə-​ˈlä-​ji-​kəl How to pronounce anthropology (audio) \ adjective
anthropologically \ ˌan(t)-​thrə-​pə-​ˈlä-​ji-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce anthropology (audio) \ adverb
anthropologist \ ˌan(t)-​thrə-​ˈpä-​lə-​jist How to pronounce anthropology (audio) \ noun

The Origin of Anthropology

The word anthropology dates back to the late 16th century, but it was not until the 19th century that it was applied to the academic discipline that now bears its name. In the United States, this field of study is typically divided into four distinct branches: physical (or biological) anthropology, archaeology, cultural (or social) anthropology, and linguistic anthropology.

Anthropology is from the New Latin word anthropologia (“the study of humanity”) and shares its ultimate root in Greek, anthrōpos (“human being”), with a number of other words in English, such as anthropomorphize, philanthropy, and misanthrope.

Examples of anthropology in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Kathryn Clancy, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, generated hundreds of responses on Twitter after saying that her period was heavier than usual after her first dose of the Moderna vaccine. New York Times, "What Women Need to Know About the Covid Vaccine," 14 Apr. 2021 In what must be one of the most painfully on-the-nose episodes in the history of anthropology, Lee’s wife, Nancy Howell, published her own study of the Ju/’hoansi, noting that Lee had declined to count childcare as a form of labor. Daniel Immerwahr, The New Republic, "Paleo Con," 24 Mar. 2021 So for 50 years, the Smithsonian Institution Building, also known as the Castle, was full of scientists studying topics such as meteorology, anthropology, natural history, electromagnetism and chemistry. Washington Post, "The Smithsonian got its start thanks to a mysterious gift," 15 Mar. 2021 Tulasi Srinivas is a professor of anthropology, religion and transnational studies at Emerson College's Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies. Tulasi Srinivas, CNN, "The 'clink clink" of your New Year's Eve toast has an icy backstory," 31 Dec. 2020 The series features five 90-minute videos exploring anthropology, vertebrate zoology, botany, entomology and paleontology. Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Venues are closed, so Utah arts groups are streaming their holiday cheer," 27 Nov. 2020 The University of California, Berkeley, has paused admissions to its Ph.D. programs in anthropology, sociology and art history. Shawn Hubler, New York Times, "Colleges Slash Budgets in the Pandemic, With ‘Nothing Off-Limits’," 26 Oct. 2020 Pitre is the associate professor of anthropology and J. Ansil Ramsay Professor of Public Health at St. Lawrence., "Community news for the Glastonbury edition," 16 Apr. 2021 Figuring out the best spots for introducing abalone is an area that Todd Braje, a professor of anthropology at San Diego State University also affiliated with the California Academy of Sciences, researches from a historical perspective. Tara Duggan, San Francisco Chronicle, "Abalone diving is banned, and work goes on to restore the giant sea snail on California's coast," 16 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'anthropology.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of anthropology

1593, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for anthropology

borrowed from New Latin anthropologia "study of humanity, science of human nature," from anthropo- anthropo- + -logia -logy

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Time Traveler for anthropology

Time Traveler

The first known use of anthropology was in 1593

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Statistics for anthropology

Last Updated

15 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Anthropology.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for anthropology



English Language Learners Definition of anthropology

: the study of human races, origins, societies, and cultures


an·​thro·​pol·​o·​gy | \ ˌan-thrə-ˈpä-lə-jē How to pronounce anthropology (audio) \

Kids Definition of anthropology

: a science that studies people and especially their history, development, distribution and culture


an·​thro·​pol·​o·​gy | \ ˌan(t)-thrə-ˈpäl-ə-jē How to pronounce anthropology (audio) \
plural anthropologies

Medical Definition of anthropology

: the science of humans especially : the study of humans in relation to distribution, origin, classification, and relationship of races, physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture

Other Words from anthropology

anthropological \ -​pə-​ˈläj-​i-​kəl How to pronounce anthropology (audio) \ adjective
anthropologically \ -​i-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce anthropology (audio) \ adverb
anthropologist \ ˌan(t)-​thrə-​ˈpäl-​ə-​jəst How to pronounce anthropology (audio) \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on anthropology

Nglish: Translation of anthropology for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about anthropology

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