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 morphology (audio) \ or less commonly morphologic \ ˌmȯr-​fə-​ˈlä-​jik How to pronounce morphology (audio) \ adjective
morphologically \ ˌmȯr-​fə-​ˈlä-​ji-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce morphology (audio) \ adverb
morphologist \ mȯr-​ˈfä-​lə-​jist How to pronounce morphology (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 From the imaging techniques, Ziegler and University of Bonn graduate student Christina Sagorny identified the shell and gill shape, the morphology of its digestive system, imaged the nervous system and sensory organs. Elizabeth Gamillo, Smithsonian Magazine, "New Species of Dumbo Octopus Identified Using 3-D Imaging Techniques," 30 Apr. 2021 The team also used morphology, the study of the size and shape of the bones. Eoin Mcsweeney, CNN, "Saber-toothed cats stalked and ate baby mammoths," 28 Apr. 2021 That morphology is quadrupedal, so DyRET moves like a dog or cat. Matt Simon, Wired, "Watch a Shape-Shifting Robot Prowl the Big, Bad World," 15 Mar. 2021 Yet researchers have puzzled over why the more-than-10,000-year-old Paleoamerican skulls unearthed so far have such different morphology from those in more recent finds and from modern Native Americans. Alison Abbott, Scientific American, "Discovery of Mexican Skeleton Connects Siberian Ancestors to Native Americans," 15 May 2014 But the missing morphology is in fact a problem, says Terrence Gosliner, senior curator of invertebrate zoology at the California Academy of Sciences, who wasn’t involved in the work. Matt Simon, Wired, "Is This a Fossilized Lair of the Dreaded Bobbit Worm?," 21 Jan. 2021 The morphology of the canine was so similar to a mega-size gray wolf that nobody thought to argue with what seemed like a sure thing. Sara Kiley Watson, Popular Science, "Dire wolves are actually ice age mega-foxes," 21 Jan. 2021 In one, rapid diversification in some aspect of body morphology produces a burst of new species at first, and then speciation slows as the available niches fill up. Quanta Magazine, "New Fish Data Reveal How Evolutionary Bursts Create Species," 1 Dec. 2020 That demand is being addressed by careful engineering of the composition, structure and morphology of existing catalysts, such as titanium dioxide. Javier Garcia Martinez, Scientific American, "Sun-Powered Chemistry Can Turn Carbon Dioxide into Common Materials," 10 Nov. 2020

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of morphology was in 1828

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Statistics for morphology

Last Updated

7 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Morphology.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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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
: 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

Nglish: Translation of morphology for Spanish Speakers

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

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