an·​thro·​pol·​o·​gy | \ˌan(t)-thrə-ˈpä-lə-jē \

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 \-​pə-​ˈlä-​ji-​kəl \ adjective
anthropologically \-​ji-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb
anthropologist \ˌan(t)-​thrə-​ˈpä-​lə-​jist \ 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

The awakening was driven in part by advances in forensic anthropology. Matías Costa, Smithsonian, "The Battle Over the Memory of the Spanish Civil War," 28 June 2018 Questioning Hoodless’ analysis had less to do with his competence and more to do with the state of forensic anthropology at the time, Jantz said in the paper. Amy Mcrary, USA TODAY, "‘I think we found her’: Researcher says bones from Pacific island likely belong to Amelia Earhart," 8 Mar. 2018 Jantz adds that forensic anthropology has jumped ahead by leaps and bounds in the decades since Hoodless analyzed the bones. Jared Gilmour, kansascity, "Amelia Earhart’s bones were likely found in 1940 on Pacific island, new forensic analysis suggests | The Kansas City Star," 7 Mar. 2018 At some point the bones went missing, so the mystery of the Nikumaroro castaway rests on Hoodless’s measurements and on the state of forensic anthropology in 1941. The Economist, "A mystery solved?New evidence in the search for Amelia Earhart," 6 Feb. 2018 A few years later, Boehm took a position in the UNR anthropology department. Jonathon Keats, Discover Magazine, "The Vanishing City," 13 Aug. 2018 Junge is an anthropology professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz and a Fulbright fellow at the Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil who studies working-class and middle-class families in Brazil. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Corruption, fake news, and WhatsApp: how Bolsonaro won Brazil," 29 Oct. 2018 Hawks is a professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. John Hawks, WSJ, "‘Lamarck’s Revenge’ Review: Inheriting the Wrong Ideas," 16 Aug. 2018 Ken Brown, a professor of anthropology at the University of Houston, told Fox News on Wednesday. Madeline Farber, Fox News, "Texas construction workers discover remains of 95 African-American laborers from early 20th century," 18 July 2018

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

New Latin anthropologia, from anthrop- + -logia -logy

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Last Updated

13 Dec 2018

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The first known use of anthropology was in 1593

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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 \

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 \
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 \ adjective
anthropologically \-​i-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb
anthropologist \ˌan(t)-​thrə-​ˈpäl-​ə-​jəst \ noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on anthropology

Spanish Central: Translation of anthropology

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

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