phy·​lum | \ ˈfī-ləm How to pronounce phylum (audio) \
plural phyla\ ˈfī-​lə How to pronounce phylum (audio) \

Definition of phylum

1a : a direct line of descent within a group
b : a group that constitutes or has the unity of a phylum specifically : a primary category in biological taxonomy especially of animals that ranks above the class and below the kingdom — compare division sense 10
2 : a group of languages related more remotely than those of a family or stock

Examples of phylum in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Above the size of L rotifers, however, farmers switch phylum and feed their charges crustaceans called brine shrimps, the smallest of which clock in at 400 microns. The Economist, "Irradiating small animals used as fish food makes them bigger," 23 Jan. 2021 For the smallest fry these are often rotifers, a phylum of tiny animals discovered in the late 17th century by early microscopists. The Economist, "Irradiating small animals used as fish food makes them bigger," 23 Jan. 2021 Think of loungewear as the kingdom of clothing, whereas sweats are a phylum, and a Juicy Couture-revival velour suit is a species. Sarah Spellings, Vogue, "All The Ways We Styled Sweats This Year," 23 Dec. 2020 Then there are the bryozoans, a phylum of animals all its own. Joanna Klein, New York Times, "Creatures in This Underwater Forest Could Save Your Life One Day," 31 Mar. 2020 The California lake is just one of several extreme locales where researchers have spotted nematodes, the phylum all eight worm species belong to. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "Scientists discover a worm that has three sexes and a pouch like a kangaroo's," 27 Sep. 2019 The hundreds of species belonging to the phylum Tardigrada are so hardy that many could be here long after other life on Earth has perished, enduring as long as the sun continues to shine. NBC News, "What is a tardigrade?," 14 Oct. 2019 One type of bacterium from the Verrucomicrobia phylum, Akkermansia muciniphila, seemed to play a role in a healthy aging process, the researchers say, possibly by increasing the amounts of secondary bile acids in the gut. Eva Frederick, Science | AAAS, "Poop transplants can help prematurely old mice live longer," 29 July 2019 Certain types of microbes in the soil seemed to speed plant flowering time, the team found, while others, such as members of the Proteobacteria phylum, slowed it down. Quanta Magazine, "Below Our Feet, a World of Hidden Life," 16 June 2015

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

1868, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for phylum

New Latin, from Greek phylon tribe, race — more at phyl-

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Last Updated

11 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Phylum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for phylum



English Language Learners Definition of phylum

biology : a large group of related animals or plants


phy·​lum | \ ˈfī-ləm How to pronounce phylum (audio) \
plural phyla\ -​lə \

Kids Definition of phylum

: a group of related living things (as animals or plants) that ranks above the class and below the kingdom in scientific classification


phy·​lum | \ ˈfī-ləm How to pronounce phylum (audio) \
plural phyla\ -​lə How to pronounce phylum (audio) \

Medical Definition of phylum

: a major group of animals or in some classifications plants sharing one or more fundamental characteristics that set them apart from all other animals and plants and forming a primary category of the animal or plant kingdom the phylum Arthropoda

More from Merriam-Webster on phylum

Nglish: Translation of phylum for Spanish Speakers

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