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 phalanges (audio) , fā-​ , ˈfā-​ˌ , British usually  fa-​ \

Definition of phalanx

1 : a body of heavily armed infantry in ancient Greece formed in close deep ranks and files broadly : a body of troops in close array
2 plural phalanges : one of the digital bones of the hand or foot of a vertebrate

3 plural usually phalanxes

a : a massed arrangement of persons, animals, or things a phalanx of armed guards
b : an organized body of persons a phalanx of lawyers

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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

The Americans would have to marry patience with creativity to bypass that phalanx, all while taking care to avoid getting caught in transition. Brian Straus,, "For USMNT, Two Very Different Friendlies With One Set of Prevalent Themes," 11 Sep. 2019 One of the most belligerent—and embattled—fan phalanxes belongs to Michael Jackson. Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, "Superfans: A Love Story," 9 Sep. 2019 Overhead, a phalanx of sensors, aircraft, and balloons will probe the Arctic atmosphere, which has warmed twice as fast as the planetary average. Eli Kintisch, Science | AAAS, "Arctic researchers will lock this ship in ice for a year to study the changing polar region," 20 Aug. 2019 The front row of the Mixtape Tour is a literal bar, complete with stools and a phalanx of contest winners (and presumable havers of $2,500), whose drinks and persons are draped across the guys’ feet for most of the show. Rebecca Schuman, Longreads, "I’ll Be Loving You Forever," 14 Aug. 2019 The head-clutching paradox is that 536 elected Washingtonians and endless phalanxes of well-meaning appointees such as yourself wring such hideously wretched results out of such idealistic intentions. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "Welcome to the Machine," 26 July 2019 The cavalcade came down the avenue flanked by a phalanx of Saltwater Cowboys, there to make sure the ponies didn’t break away to munch on someone’s lawn. Sarah Maslin Nir, New York Times, "Following in the Wake of a Storybook Pony," 8 July 2019 Afterward, Levandowski exited the courthouse through a phalanx of cameras recording his every movement. Charles Duhigg, The New Yorker, "How the Anthony Levandowski Indictment Helps Big Tech Stifle Innovation in Silicon Valley," 28 Aug. 2019 Whenever police phalanxes ready fresh volleys of tear gas, Kwong puts himself in front of the protesters, trying to buy time for a retreat. Time, "'Whenever There’s Trouble He Rushes There.' Meet Legislator Roy Kwong, the God of Hong Kong Protests," 20 July 2019

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

1553, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for phalanx

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

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Last Updated

18 Sep 2019

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The first known use of phalanx was in 1553

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English Language Learners Definition of phalanx

formal : a large group of people, animals, or things often placed close together


pha·​lanx | \ ˈfā-ˌlaŋ(k)s, British usually ˈfal-ˌaŋ(k)s\
plural phalanges\ fə-​ˈlan-​(ˌ)jēz, fā-​, ˈfā-​ˌ, British usually fal-​ˈan-​ \

Medical Definition of phalanx

: 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on phalanx

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with phalanx

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for phalanx

Nglish: Translation of phalanx for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about phalanx

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to spread over or through

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