mor·​phol·​o·​gy | \mȯr-ˈfä-lə-jē \

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 \ or less commonly morphologic \ -​ˈlä-​jik \ adjective
morphologically \ -​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb
morphologist \ mȯr-​ˈfä-​lə-​jist \ 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

So, putting it all together, Dyret is a machine that can evolve to not only adapt to new environments, but to change its behavior and morphology when something internally is going awry, like a battery running low. Matt Simon, WIRED, "The Shape-Shifting Robot That Evolves by Falling Down," 18 May 2018 The intricacies of their usually invisible and always magical biochemistry, morphology and ecology never cease to amaze. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, "Why this Kentucky plant is the 'Manolo Blahniks' of the garden world," 22 June 2018 One of its main objectives was to better understand global geology and morphology of the dwarf planet and its tiny moon Charon. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Science Fiction's Biggest Names Will Live Forever on Pluto's Moon," 13 Apr. 2018 And anything pertaining to history of human migrations, or things that play into traditional classifications of racial phenotypes like facial morphology or skin color. Michael Price, Science | AAAS, "‘It’s a toxic place.’ How the online world of white nationalists distorts population genetics," 22 May 2018 Sorting the spiders with the aid of a powerful electron microscope, the researcher relied on such distinguishing markers as genital morphology and carapace shape to make her classifications. Ryan P. Smith, Smithsonian, "Madagascar’s Ancient ‘Pelican Spiders’ Are As Striking As They Are Strange," 11 Jan. 2018 However, that same diversity—revealed through research on Native American cranial morphology and tooth structure—creates its own dilemma. Ben Potter, National Geographic, "Lost Native American Ancestor Revealed in Ancient Child’s DNA," 3 Jan. 2018 Grayson subscribes to the Hopeful Monster theory, a term coined in the 1930s by a geneticist named Richard Goldschmidt, who was interested in how radical changes in morphology evolve. Alessandra Codinha, Vogue, "A New Exhibition Finds Hope in Moths and Monsters," 12 Feb. 2018 Person said the plesiosaur was identified by its morphology. Jack Dura, The Seattle Times, "80 million-year-old remains prepped for North Dakota display," 15 Jan. 2018

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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Time Traveler for morphology

The first known use of morphology was in 1828

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More Definitions for morphology



English Language Learners Definition of morphology

linguistics : the study and description of how words are formed in language

biology : 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 \
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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something that serves to warn or remind

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