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 anthropological (audio) \ adjective
anthropologically \ ˌan(t)-​thrə-​pə-​ˈlä-​ji-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce anthropologically (audio) \ adverb
anthropologist \ ˌan(t)-​thrə-​ˈpä-​lə-​jist How to pronounce anthropologist (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 Barbara Koenig, a professor of medical anthropology and bioethics at U.C.S.F. and one of the report’s co-authors, underscores the fact that sequencing, while promising, is not yet mature enough to be routinely used to screen healthy children. Tanya Lewis, Scientific American, "23 and Baby," 24 Dec. 2019 Grass-roots efforts to crowdsource resources for students provide an important safety net for people with few options, said Abigail Morris, 19, a sophomore studying anthropology and gender studies at American University. Lauren Lumpkin, Washington Post, "Strangers offer housing, meals to students displaced from campuses," 16 Mar. 2020 Heidi Larson is a professor of anthropology, risk, and decision science in the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and director of The Vaccine Confidence Project. Heidi Larson, STAT, "Perspective and commentary from experts around the world," 2 Mar. 2020 Tracking this ratio has been critical in unraveling mysteries in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, and paleontology, among countless others. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "Murder! Espionage! Cosmic Rays! The History of Carbon-14 Is Way More Thrilling Than You Think," 25 Feb. 2020 Nyerere, who had studied anthropology and political economy at St. Andrews University in Scotland in the 1950s, argued that natural resource products were doomed to fall in value relative to manufactures. Edward Lotterman, Twin Cities, "Edward Lotterman: Taconite layoffs manifest old debate," 22 Nov. 2019 Directly to my right sat Nadia Mbonde, 10 weeks pregnant, who's studying anthropology at New York University while completing doula training prompted by the loss of her first pregnancy last year. al, "I wanted to read an article about black motherhood that wasn’t a horror story. So I wrote it.," 6 Sep. 2019 The resulting photographs and plaster were collected by the museum’s department of anthropology. Taína Caragol, Smithsonian Magazine, "Recognition of Major Osage Leader and Warrior Opens a New Window Into History," 20 Feb. 2020 Bernard Perley, another of the letter writers and an associate professor of anthropology and American Indian studies, told the committee the fact that the mounds are no longer there doesn't mean it isn't still a sacred place. Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'Better delay than err': Latest Kletzsch Park dam proposal stalled by questions, concerns," 24 Dec. 2019

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

4 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Anthropology.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for anthropology


How to pronounce anthropology (audio)

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

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

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