pha·​lanx ˈfā-ˌlaŋ(k)s How to pronounce phalanx (audio)
 British usually  ˈfa-
plural phalanxes or phalanges fə-ˈlan-(ˌ)jēz How to pronounce phalanx (audio)
 British usually  fa-
: a body of heavily armed infantry in ancient Greece formed in close deep ranks and files
broadly : a body of troops in close array
plural phalanges : one of the digital bones of the hand or foot of a vertebrate
plural usually phalanxes
: a massed arrangement of persons, animals, or things
a phalanx of armed guards
: an organized body of persons
a phalanx of lawyers

Did you know?

The original sense of phalanx refers to a military formation that was used in ancient warfare and consisted of a tight block of soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder, several rows deep, often with shields joined. The word phalanx comes from the Greeks, though they were not the only ones who used this formation. The Greek term literally means "log" and was used for both this line of battle and for a bone in a finger or toe. The word and its senses passed into Latin and then were adopted into English in the 16th century. These days, a phalanx can be any arranged mass, whether of persons, animals, or things, or a body of people organized in a particular effort.

Examples of phalanx in a Sentence

A solid phalanx of armed guards stood in front of the castle. She had to go through a phalanx of television cameras.
Recent Examples on the Web Staff from the Times, Vogue, Newsweek, and Time and a phalanx of Japanese businessmen were among the two hundred curious souls who made their way into the ballroom of the Gramercy Park Hotel, decorated with the original painting Forcade had commissioned for the cover. Sean Howe, Rolling Stone, 26 Aug. 2023 Then, shortly after 6 p.m., a vast phalanx of tanks, armored vehicles, bulldozers, infantrymen and combat engineers entered northern Gaza — unseen and unreported. Ronen Bergman, New York Times, 30 Oct. 2023 Surrounded by fellow composers and a phalanx of session musicians, the pioneering electronic-music band was hard to pick out of the crowd. Steve Smith, New York Times, 25 Sep. 2023 In a voice message to The Washington Post, Mahmoud, 36, described a phalanx of Israeli tanks deployed along Nasser Street in northern Gaza City, a clear warning for civilians not to enter large sections of the city. Sarah Dadouch, Washington Post, 24 Nov. 2023 His secret editorial phalanx would always be there to help. Ben Lerner, Harper's Magazine, 3 Nov. 2023 On one corner, Carter prompted Gandhi to attempt an impossible passage through a phalanx of tents that completely blocked a sidewalk. Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times, 2 Oct. 2023 Encounters in which he is confronted by a phalanx of Washington police brass are staged on the memorial’s steps, not because the meetings actually took place there, but because the site is more photogenic than a back office. Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post, 1 Nov. 2023 Last week, arriving for a one-day visit to Tel Aviv, President Biden descended from Air Force One and bear-hugged Netanyahu before a phalanx of cameras. Steve Coll, The New Yorker, 22 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'phalanx.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin phalang-, phalanx, from Greek, battle line, digital bone, literally, log — more at balk entry 2

First Known Use

1553, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of phalanx was in 1553


Dictionary Entries Near phalanx

Cite this Entry

“Phalanx.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


pha·​lanx ˈfā-ˌlaŋ(k)s How to pronounce phalanx (audio)
plural phalanxes or phalanges fə-ˈlan-(ˌ)jēz How to pronounce phalanx (audio)
: a body of heavily armed infantry of ancient Greece
plural phalanges : one of the bones of a finger or toe of a vertebrate

Medical Definition


ˈfā-ˌlaŋ(k)s, British usually ˈfal-ˌaŋ(k)s
plural phalanges
fə-ˈlan-(ˌ)jēz, fā-, ˈfā-ˌ, British usually fal-ˈan-
: any of the digital bones of the hand or foot distal to the metacarpus or metatarsus of a vertebrate that in humans are three to each finger and toe with the exception of the thumb and big toe which have only two each

More from Merriam-Webster on phalanx

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!