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

Definition of pharynx

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

Examples of pharynx in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In other words, during swallowing, the pharynx only leads to the digestive tract and the upper and lower airways are protected. New York Times, 20 Jan. 2022 The second phase of this vaccine strategy exploits the influenza virus’s ability to enter the body through the nasal pharynx. William A. Haseltine, Forbes, 31 Jan. 2022 The scientific name for this process is retro nasal olfaction, where the odors flow from the back of your mouth up through your nasal pharynx and into your nasal cavity. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, 25 June 2021 Having pharyngeal jaws isn’t so weird, all bony fishes have them, what sets morays apart is how those extra jaws, located just behind the throat or pharynx, can move, according to Live Science. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 June 2021 Because the virus is sent into the air by talking, coughing, and singing—any forcible exhalation of air through the pharynx—playing a woodwind or brass instrument would logically pose a risk. James Hamblin, The Atlantic, 14 Oct. 2020 Large droplets fall quickly to the ground, but the rush of air also creates an aerosolized mixture of everything that’s lingering in the mucus membrane of your pharynx. James Hamblin, The Atlantic, 10 June 2020 And yet, while those familiar ailments primarily affect the nose, the throat, and the pharynx—together called the upper respiratory tract—the coronavirus seems to skip directly to the lower respiratory tract, multiplying in the lungs. Clayton Dalton, The New Yorker, 27 May 2020 Most tests rely on a nasal swab that penetrates deep into the pharynx, the mucous membrane behind the nose and mouth. Kristen V Brown,, 7 May 2020 See More

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

1638, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for 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 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.

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Cite this Entry

“Pharynx.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for pharynx


phar·​ynx | \ ˈfer-iŋks How to pronounce pharynx (audio) \
plural pharynges\ fə-​ˈrin-​ˌjēz \ also pharynxes

Kids Definition of pharynx

: 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


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

Medical Definition of pharynx

: 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

Nglish: Translation of pharynx for Spanish Speakers

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


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