Try Our Apps


90s Slang You Should Know


[fahy-luh m] /ˈfaɪ ləm/
noun, plural phyla
[fahy-luh] /ˈfaɪ lə/ (Show IPA)
Biology. the primary subdivision of a taxonomic kingdom, grouping together all classes of organisms that have the same body plan.
Linguistics. a category consisting of language stocks that, because of cognates in vocabulary, are considered likely to be related by common origin.
Compare stock (def 13).
Origin of phylum
1875-80; < New Latin < Greek phŷlon tribe, stock; see phylon
Related forms
phylar, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for phylum
Historical Examples
  • Hence these five backboned classes may be brought together into a higher group called a branch or phylum.

  • Little by little the phylum has been shorn of orders and classes.

    The Sea-beach at Ebb-tide Augusta Foote Arnold
  • phylum, or stem, the sum total of all those organisms which have probably descended from one common lower form.

    The Last Link Ernst Haeckel
  • Luminescence is more widespread in this phylum and more characteristic of the group as a whole than any other.

    The Nature of Animal Light E. Newton Harvey
  • The critical point in the history of this phylum is passed when its members migrated from water to the land.

  • We may profitably use it only as a lay figurea sort of manikin, which will introduce us to the phylum.

    The Sea-beach at Ebb-tide Augusta Foote Arnold
  • The phylum also includes, as one of its large suborders, all the snails and slugs that are to be found crawling upon the land.

    The Sea-beach at Ebb-tide Augusta Foote Arnold
  • We have listed the organisms known to be associated with cockroaches systematically by phylum, class, order, and family.

  • The higher animals begin with the twelfth phylum, namely, the Chordata, or vertebrates.

    The Sea-beach at Ebb-tide Augusta Foote Arnold
  • As accepted by zologists to-day, this phylum is but the remnant of its former self.

    The Sea-beach at Ebb-tide Augusta Foote Arnold
British Dictionary definitions for phylum


noun (pl) -la (-lə)
a major taxonomic division of living organisms that contain one or more classes. An example is the phylum Arthropoda (insects, crustaceans, arachnids, etc, and myriapods)
any analogous group, such as a group of related language families or linguistic stocks
Word Origin
C19: New Latin, from Greek phulon race
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for phylum

"division of the plant or animal kingdom," 1868, Modern Latin, coined by French naturalist Georges Léopole Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert, Baron Cuvier (1769-1832) from Greek phylon "race, stock," related to phyle "tribe, clan" (see physic). The immediate source of the English word probably is from German.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
phylum in Medicine

phylum phy·lum (fī'ləm)
n. pl. phy·la (-lə)
A taxonomic category that is a primary division of a kingdom and ranks above a class in size.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source
phylum in Science
Plural phyla
A group of organisms ranking above a class and below a kingdom. See Table at taxonomy.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source
phylum in Culture
phylum [(feye-luhm)]

plur. phyla

One of the major divisions of the kingdoms of living things; the second-largest standard unit of biological classification. The arthropods, chordates, and mollusks are phyla. Phyla in the plant kingdom are frequently called divisions. (See Linnean classification.)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for phylum

Most English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for phylum

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for phylum