phar·​ynx | \ ˈfer-iŋ(k)s How to pronounce pharynx (audio) , ˈfa-riŋ(k)s \
plural pharynges\ fə-​ˈrin-​(ˌ)jēz How to pronounce pharynges (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 From the baboon’s larynx and vocal folds, which is high up and close to their chin line, there’s just a short step up through the cavity called the pharynx, then a long way out the horizontal oral cavity. Louis-jean Boë, The Conversation, "Examining how primates make vowel sounds pushes timeline for speech evolution back by 27 million years," 11 Dec. 2019 Tardigrades have eight legs with claws at the end, a brain and a central nervous system, and a sucker-like pharynx behind their mouth. Cnn, The Mercury News, "Are tardigrades alive on the moon after spacecraft’s crash landing?," 7 Aug. 2019 The ten other cancers cited are: endometrial; gallbladder; kidney; liver; mouth, pharynx and larynx; oesophageal; ovarian; pancreatic; prostrate; stomach. Brett Molina, USA TODAY, "Report: Obesity linked to 12 types of cancers, including breast and colorectal," 24 May 2018 The researchers say drinking alcohol is connected to mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectal, breast and stomach cancers, and that even small amounts can increase some of those risks. Scott Berson, miamiherald, "Cut out fruit juice to slash your chance of getting cancer, experts say. Also bacon. | Miami Herald," 24 May 2018 Zenker’s diverticulum is a pouch that forms where the pharynx, or voicebox, meets the esophagus. Sandra G. Boodman, Washington Post, "She’d lost a lot of weight and had trouble swallowing. Was she dying?," 17 Mar. 2018 In the lungs, the larvae claw their way out of the organ's tiny air sacs and then clamber up to the windpipe to the pharynx to be coughed and swallowed. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Couple freaks after tabloids spread medical pics of their worm-infested bums," 1 Mar. 2018 Sipping hot fluids helps to warm the bottom of your nasal pharynx, which can also help improve symptoms, Saketkhoo explained. Lisa Drayer, CNN, "Does chicken soup really help fight a cold?," 9 Mar. 2018 In the emergency room, X-rays showed that the pent-up pressure from the sneeze had escaped the windpipe and ripped the soft tissue of his pharynx. Sarah Rense, Esquire, "Here's Why You Should Never Hold in a Sneeze," 16 Jan. 2018

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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The first known use of pharynx was in 1638

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Last Updated

19 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pharynx.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for pharynx


How to pronounce pharynx (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pharynx

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


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 pharynges (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

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More from Merriam-Webster on pharynx

Spanish Central: Translation of pharynx

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

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