phy·​lum | \ ˈfī-ləm How to pronounce phylum (audio) \
plural phyla\ ˈfī-​lə How to pronounce phyla (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 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 Instead, the overhundreds had healthy microbiomes, many with a lot of bacteria from a particular phylum called Verrucomicrobia. Eva Frederick, Science | AAAS, "Poop transplants can help prematurely old mice live longer," 29 July 2019 This ranked taxonomy — domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species — is foundational to biology pedagogy. Quanta Magazine, "What’s in a Name? Taxonomy Problems Vex Biologists," 24 June 2019 Looking to classify their animals into a phylum, Hoyal Cuthill and Han ran a computer analysis using anatomical features to reconstruct evolutionary relationships. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Weird Prehistoric Plant Turns Out To Be Weird Prehistoric Animal," 8 Aug. 2018 And a new phylum is just what Higgins and Kristensen had on the lab table before them. Adrienne Mason, Smithsonian, "King of The Mud Dragons," 2 Mar. 2018

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.

See More

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-

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about phylum

Time Traveler for phylum

Time Traveler

The first known use of phylum was in 1868

See more words from the same year

Statistics for phylum

Cite this Entry

“Phylum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for phylum


How to pronounce phylum (audio)

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 phyla (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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on phylum

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with phylum

Spanish Central: Translation of phylum

Nglish: Translation of phylum for Spanish Speakers

Comments on phylum

What made you want to look up phylum? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!