sphinc·​ter | \ ˈsfiŋ(k)-tər How to pronounce sphincter (audio) \

Definition of sphincter

: an annular muscle surrounding and able to contract or close a bodily opening

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Other Words from sphincter

sphincteric \ sfiŋ(k)-​ˈter-​ik How to pronounce sphincteric (audio) \ adjective

Examples of sphincter in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Acid reflux can happen more frequently during pregnancy because the hormone progesterone causes your esophageal sphincter (which is supposed to keep acid and food in your stomach) to relax, the Mayo Clinic explains. Korin Miller, SELF, "6 Gastrointestinal Issues That Can Affect You During Pregnancy," 14 Dec. 2018 With vaginal deliveries, there is a real possibility not only of vaginal tearing, but pelvic floor problems that can manifest as urinary incontinence, anal sphincter injury and fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse. Kavin Senapathy, SELF, "Giving Birth Made Me Question the Informed Consent Process During Childbirth," 14 May 2018 From there, the hot dog travels to the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), an involuntary bundle of muscles at the low end of the esophagus that prevents acid from getting into the stomach. Amy Kraft, CBS News, "How competitive eaters do it – and what it does to them," 4 July 2018 The debris could have blocked the pyloric sphincter, the part of the stomach that empties into the intestines, and prevented the animal’s stomach from emptying. David Doubilet, National Geographic, "How a Seal Pup Died With a Plastic Wrapper in Its Stomach," 31 May 2018 That will prevent it from slipping past your constricted anal sphincter into your rectum. Lindsey Lanquist, SELF, "7 Things You Just Really Shouldn't Use as Toys During Masturbation," 3 Mar. 2018 Part of what Kelley does is based on math, but part of it is designed strictly to tighten the sphincters of the people on the other sideline. Andy Staples, SI.com, "Why Don’t More FBS Coaches Go to Extremes in the Name of Efficiency?," 11 Apr. 2018 Your rectum is designed to keep poop in with help from a muscle called the anal sphincter. Lindsey Lanquist, SELF, "We Asked Doctors to Answer All Your Questions About Anal Sex," 12 Mar. 2018 The anus lacks vocal cords, of course, but those are nothing special, just flaps to help keep food and water out of our airways; the anal sphincter can buzz like a trumpeter’s mouth anyway, which is almost as good. Sam Kean, Slate Magazine, "Lessons on Flatulence From a Fart Artist," 24 July 2017

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

1578, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sphincter

Late Latin, from Greek sphinktēr, literally, band, from sphingein to bind tight

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Dictionary Entries near sphincter





sphincter ani



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Time Traveler for sphincter

The first known use of sphincter was in 1578

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English Language Learners Definition of sphincter

medical : a ring-shaped muscle that surrounds a body opening and that can tighten to close the opening


sphinc·​ter | \ ˈsfiŋ(k)-tər How to pronounce sphincter (audio) \

Medical Definition of sphincter

: an annular muscle surrounding and able to contract or close a bodily opening — see anal sphincter, cardiac sphincter, precapillary sphincter, pyloric sphincter

Other Words from sphincter

sphincteral \ -​t(ə-​)rəl How to pronounce sphincteral (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on sphincter

Britannica English: Translation of sphincter for Arabic Speakers

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