Try Our Apps


Avoid these words. Seriously.


[sfingk-ter] /ˈsfɪŋk tər/
noun, Anatomy.
a circular band of voluntary or involuntary muscle that encircles an orifice of the body or one of its hollow organs.
Origin of sphincter
1570-80; < Late Latin < Greek sphinktḗr, equivalent to sphing-, base of sphíngein to hold tight + -tēr suffix denoting agent
Related forms
sphincteral, sphincterial
[sfingk-teer-ee-uh l] /sfɪŋkˈtɪər i əl/ (Show IPA),
[sfingk-ter-ik] /sfɪŋkˈtɛr ɪk/ (Show IPA),
[sfingk-ter-it, -tuh-reyt] /ˈsfɪŋk tər ɪt, -təˌreɪt/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for sphincter
Historical Examples
British Dictionary definitions for sphincter


(anatomy) a ring of muscle surrounding the opening of a hollow organ or body and contracting to close it
Derived Forms
sphincteral, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Late Latin, from Greek sphinkter, from sphingein to grip tightly
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 sphincter

1570s, from Middle French sphincter, from Late Latin sphincter "contractile muscle," from Greek sphinkter "band, anything that binds tight," from sphingein "to squeeze, bind," of unknown origin. First used in anatomical sense by Galen.

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

sphincter sphinc·ter (sfĭngk'tər)
A ringlike muscle that normally maintains constriction of a body passage or orifice and that relaxes as required by normal physiological functioning. Also called anatomical sphincter.

sphinc'ter·al or sphinc·ter'ic (-těr'ĭk) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source
sphincter in Science
A ring-shaped muscle that encircles an opening or passage in the body. The opening and closing of the anus is controlled by contraction and relaxation of a sphincter, as is the opening that leads to the stomach from the esophagus.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for sphincter

Difficulty index for sphincter

Some English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for sphincter

Scrabble Words With Friends