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 The viruses are nearly identical in morphology under electron microscopy. Dennis Normile, Science | AAAS, "Mystery virus found in Wuhan resembles bat viruses but not SARS, Chinese scientist says," 10 Jan. 2020 Most monitor lizards just have these vermiform (worm-shaped) osteoderms, but this guy has four very distinct morphologies, which is very unusual across lizards. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Komodo Dragons Have Skin That Looks Like Chain Mail," 17 Sep. 2019 Hear how the glacier has receded over the last several decades and how glacial morphology continues to carve the valley and surrounding landscapes. National Geographic, "Alaska Expedition: Wildlife, Fjords, and Glaciers," 10 Sep. 2019 So much of their behavior is best understood through their morphology. Joshua Rapp Learn, Smithsonian, "Extra Thumb Discovered on Aye-Aye Lemurs, Giving These Primates Six Fingers," 22 Oct. 2019 Clarifying the relationships between these species, confidently characterising their morphology, and deciphering the complex and intricate story about hominin evolution is not a simple task. Hester Hanegraef, Quartz Africa, "The skull of humanity’s oldest known ancestor is changing our understanding of evolution," 7 Sep. 2019 For the most part, though, certain genital morphologies are associated with males, others with females. Quanta Magazine, "Why Evolution Reversed These Insects’ Sex Organs," 30 Jan. 2019 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

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

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The first known use of morphology was in 1828

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Statistics for morphology

Last Updated

4 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Morphology.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for morphology


How to pronounce morphology (audio)

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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