phar·​ynx ˈfer-iŋ(k)s How to pronounce pharynx (audio)
plural pharynges fə-ˈrin-(ˌ)jēz How to pronounce pharynx (audio) also pharynxes
: 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
: 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

Examples of pharynx in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The symptom usually occurs with spasms of the pharynx, or cavity behind the nose and mouth. Caitlin O'Kane, CBS News, 27 Sep. 2023 Small particles can get caught in your dog's nasal passages or pharynx, causing irritation and prompting a sneeze. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 17 Oct. 2022 In subjects practicing fellatio this reflex is absent even when the tongue depressor is inserted well into the vault of the pharynx. Ncbi Rofl, Discover Magazine, 19 Dec. 2010 At the same time, the larynx — the structure in the pharynx that guards the entrance to the lungs — closes up and shifts downward, sealing off the lower respiratory tract. New York Times, 20 Jan. 2022 The body almost filled the pharynx. Seriously Science, Discover Magazine, 19 Mar. 2014 Alcohol is known to be a direct cause of seven types of cancer: oral cavity, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), liver, breast, and colorectal. The Week Staff, The Week, 19 Mar. 2023 New fossils from rocks dating to the Cretaceous period from southeastern Morocco, known as the Kem-Kem beds, show that spinosaurs were able to widen their jaws and greatly open the pharynx to swallow over-sized chunks of food. Jon Tennant, Discover Magazine, 11 Jan. 2016 According to the National Cancer Institute, moderate drinkers are 1.8 times more at risk of oral cavity and pharynx cancers, while heavy drinkers are five times more at risk. The Week Staff, The Week, 19 Mar. 2023 See More

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

Word History


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 bore entry 1). 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.

First Known Use

1638, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pharynx was in 1638

Dictionary Entries Near pharynx

Cite this Entry

“Pharynx.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


phar·​ynx ˈfar-iŋ(k)s How to pronounce pharynx (audio)
plural pharynges fə-ˈrin-(ˌ)jēz How to pronounce pharynx (audio) also pharynxes
: a tube extending from the back of the nasal cavity and mouth to the esophagus in vertebrate animals that is the passage through which air passes to the larynx and food to the esophagus

Medical Definition


phar·​ynx ˈfar-iŋ(k)s How to pronounce pharynx (audio)
plural pharynges fə-ˈrin-(ˌ)jēz How to pronounce pharynx (audio) 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

More from Merriam-Webster on pharynx

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