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 Under the guise of fields such as archaeology or anthropology, white professors at these schools scoured Indian Country, digging up remains that had been respectfully buried for thousands of years. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "Academia Was Built on White Theft," 10 Sep. 2020 Gadde toyed with the idea of studying archaeology and anthropology in college, until her parents talked her out of it. Graham Hacia, Wired, "Meet This Year’s WIRED25: People Who Are Making Things Better," 9 Sep. 2020 Work started on the Northwestern coronavirus test in April in the lab of Thomas McDade, an anthropology professor and a faculty fellow in the university’s Institute for Policy Research. Meredith Cohn,, "Coronavirus antibody tests have had plenty of problems. Hopkins is developing a better, at-home version.," 1 Oct. 2020 Thomas Csordas, an anthropology professor at University of California San Diego, has studied the religious movement that includes People of Praise. The Salt Lake Tribune, "SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett tied to faith group ex-members say subjugates women," 29 Sep. 2020 Thomas Csordas, an anthropology professor at University of California San Diego, has studied the religious movement that includes People of Praise. Michael Biesecker And Michelle R. Smith, USA TODAY, "Supreme Court nominee Amy Barrett's ties to faith group draw questions about its treatment of women," 29 Sep. 2020 Idil Issak, a graduate teaching assistant in anthropology, began the semester with an in-person course that met twice a week. Washington Post, "The fall opening of colleges: Upheaval, pandemic weirdness and a fragile stability," 20 Sep. 2020 Eren, an assistant professor of anthropology at Kent State University in Ohio and co-director of the university's Experimental Archaeology Lab, used real human feces frozen to minus-50 degrees Centigrade and filed to a sharp edge. Mark Pratt, Star Tribune, "Poop knives, arachnophobic entomologists win 2020 Ig Nobels," 17 Sep. 2020 The sequence of coincidences and correlations across history, psychology, and anthropology make for compelling reading. Razib Khan, National Review, "The WEIRDest People in the World," 16 Sep. 2020

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

17 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Anthropology.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Oct. 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

More from Merriam-Webster on anthropology

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

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