noun phar·ynx \ ˈfer-iŋ(k)s , ˈfa-riŋ(k)s \
|Updated on: 12 Jun 2018

Definition of pharynx

plural pharynges play \fə-ˈrin-(ˌ)jēz\ also pharynxes
1 : the muscular tubular passage of the vertebrate digestive and respiratory tracts extending from the back of the nasal cavity and mouth to the esophagus — compare nasopharynx, oropharynx
2 : a differentiated part of the digestive tract in some invertebrates that may be thickened and muscular, eversible and toothed, or adapted as a suctorial organ

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Origin and Etymology of pharynx

borrowed from Medieval Latin pharyng-, pharynx (also Latinized early as pharynga, faringa), borrowed from Greek phárynx, pháryx "throat, gullet, pharynx," akin to pháranx "gully, chasm," of pre-Indo-European origin
Note: Greek phárynx (Homeric pháryx) has in the older scholarly literature been linked with Latin frūmen "upper part of the throat" (a word mentioned only in 4th/5th-century scholia on Terence and Virgil), Armenian erbuc, -oy "breast (of sacrificial animals)," Old Norse barki "windpipe, throat" (hence, for example, Frisk in Griechisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, Heidelberg, 1960-72, who posits, in pre-laryngealist notation), *bhr̥rug- > pharyg-, *bhrug-s-men- > frūmen), with a further connection to the Indo-European verb bherH- "work with a sharp instrument, cut, split, bore" (see 1bore). More recently, however, Beekes (Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2010, s.v.; Pre-Greek: Phonology, Morphology, Lexicon, Brill, 2014, pp. 44, 50-51) regards phárynx, pháryx and pháranx as substratal vocabulary of non-Indo-European origin, along with other terrain terms such as spêlynx "cave," sêranx "cavity hollowed out by water," láïnges "small stones" (Homer). Diagnostic are the suffix -Vng- and the alternation between nasal and non-nasal forms (pharyng-/pharyg-), perhaps reflecting a pre-nasalized stop in the substratal language. In the case of the base phar-, it is uncertain if the original sense was anatomical or topographical. The resemblance of Greek pharang- "gully, chasm" with pre-Romance *barrank- (whence Spanish barranco, barranca, etc.; see barranca) is striking and can hardly be ignored, though it does not settle the issue.

PHARYNX Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of pharynx for English Language Learners

  • medical : the part inside your mouth where the passages of the nose connect to your mouth and throat

PHARYNX Defined for Kids


noun phar·ynx \ ˈfer-iŋks \

Definition of pharynx for Students

plural pharynges \fə-ˈrin-ˌjēz\ also pharynxes
: a tube extending from the back of the nasal passages and mouth to the esophagus that is the passage through which air passes to the larynx and food to the esophagus

Medical Dictionary


noun phar·ynx \ ˈfar-iŋ(k)s \

medical Definition of pharynx

plural pharynges play \fə-ˈrin-(ˌ)jēz\ also pharynxes
: the part of the digestive and respiratory tracts situated between the cavity of the mouth and the esophagus and in humans being a conical musculomembranous tube about four and a half inches (11.43 centimeters) long that is continuous above with the mouth and nasal passages, communicates through the eustachian tubes with the ears, and extends downward past the opening into the larynx to the lower border of the cricoid cartilage where it is continuous with the esophagus — see laryngopharynx, nasopharynx, oropharynx

Illustration of pharynx

illustration of pharynx

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