mor·​phol·​o·​gy | \ mȯr-ˈfä-lə-jē How to pronounce morphology (audio) \

Definition of morphology

1a : a branch of biology that deals with the form and structure of animals and plants
b : the form and structure of an organism or any of its parts amphibian morphology external and internal eye morphology
2a : a study and description of word formation (such as inflection, derivation, and compounding) in language
b : the system of word-forming elements and processes in a language According to English morphology, the third person singular present tense of a verb is formed by adding -s.
3a : a study of structure or form
b : structure, form the unique morphology of the city— H. J. Nelson
4 : the external structure of rocks in relation to the development of erosional forms or topographic features

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Other Words from morphology

morphological \ ˌmȯr-​fə-​ˈlä-​ji-​kəl How to pronounce morphological (audio) \ or less commonly morphologic \ ˌmȯr-​fə-​ˈlä-​jik How to pronounce morphologic (audio) \ adjective
morphologically \ ˌmȯr-​fə-​ˈlä-​ji-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce morphologically (audio) \ adverb
morphologist \ mȯr-​ˈfä-​lə-​jist How to pronounce morphologist (audio) \ noun

What is morphology?

Within the field of biology, morphology is the study of the shapes and arrangement of parts of organisms, in order to determine their function, their development, and how they may have been shaped by evolution. Morphology is particularly important in classifying species, since it can often reveal how closely one species is related to another. Morphology is studied within other sciences as well, including astronomy and geology. And in language, morphology considers where words come from and why they look the way they do.

Examples of morphology in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Separation from Great Britain was one step in the morphology of the Revolution. Thomas Wendel, National Review, "The Beginning of a Nation," 4 July 2019 Don crampons, wield ice picks, and learn how glacial morphology has molded the landscape of the region. National Geographic, "Iceland Middle School Expedition," 12 June 2019 Horse species separated by millions of years, however, showed far fewer differences in their morphology. Quanta Magazine, "Evolution Runs Faster on Short Timescales," 14 Mar. 2017 This lack of testing made sense, because living crocodilians have no complex tooth morphologies to analyse—so why bother? The Economist, "Vegetarian crocodiles once roamed the world," 28 June 2019 The samples were then analyzed for concentration, motility, vitality, morphology and DNA fragmentation. Julia Hollingsworth, CNN, "Frozen sperm can survive space travel, preliminary study suggests," 24 June 2019 Humans are trying to catch up, building planes with soft wings that mimic bat morphology. Jonathon Keats, Discover Magazine, "The Origins of Flight, From Birds to Bugs to Planes," 21 June 2019 The compact and subcompact premium crossover market is pretty happening these days, taking in a lot of strange morphologies, including high-roof wagons, baby SUVs, and crossover styles. Dan Neil, WSJ, "The Lexus UX 250h: Perfect If You Have No Kids and Extra Cash," 20 June 2019 Unlike their predecessors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, modern biologists no longer depend primarily on morphology and anatomy—on appearances—to establish evolutionary relationships between organisms. Ferris Jabr, Harper's magazine, "The Story of Storytelling," 10 Mar. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'morphology.' 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 morphology

1828, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for morphology

German Morphologie, from morph- + -logie -logy

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Last Updated

19 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for morphology

The first known use of morphology was in 1828

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English Language Learners Definition of morphology

linguistics : the study and description of how words are formed in language
: the study of the form and structure of animals and plants
: the form and structure of a plant or animal or any of its parts


mor·​phol·​o·​gy | \ mȯr-ˈfäl-ə-jē How to pronounce morphology (audio) \
plural morphologies

Medical Definition of morphology

1 : a branch of biology that deals with the form and structure of animals and plants especially with respect to the forms, relations, metamorphoses, and phylogenetic development of organs apart from their functions — see anatomy sense 1 — compare physiology sense 1
2 : the form and structure of an organism or any of its parts

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More from Merriam-Webster on morphology

Spanish Central: Translation of morphology

Nglish: Translation of morphology for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of morphology for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about morphology

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