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Origin of phalanges

< Latin < Greek phálanges


[fal-uh nj, fuh-lanj, fey-lanj]
noun, plural pha·lan·ges [fuh-lan-jeez] /fəˈlæn dʒiz/. Anatomy, Zoology.
  1. a phalanx.

Origin of phalange

First recorded in 1550–60; back formation from phalanges


[fey-langks, fal-angks]
noun, plural pha·lanx·es or for 7, pha·lan·ges [fuh-lan-jeez] /fəˈlæn dʒiz/.
  1. (in ancient Greece) a group of heavily armed infantry formed in ranks and files close and deep, with shields joined and long spears overlapping.
  2. any body of troops in close array.
  3. a number of individuals, especially persons united for a common purpose.
  4. a compact or closely massed body of persons, animals, or things.
  5. Military. (initial capital letter) a radar-controlled U.S. Navy 20mm Gatling-type gun deployed on ships as a last line of defense against antiship cruise missiles.
  6. (in Fourierism) a group of about 1800 persons, living together and holding their property in common.
  7. Anatomy, Zoology. any of the bones of the fingers or toes.
verb (used without object)
  1. Printing. to arrange the distribution of work in a shop as evenly as possible.

Origin of phalanx

1545–55; < Latin < Greek phálanx military formation, bone of finger or toe, wooden roller Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for phalanges

Historical Examples of phalanges

British Dictionary definitions for phalanges


noun plural phalanges (fæˈlændʒiːz)
  1. anatomy another name for phalanx (def. 5)

Word Origin for phalange

C16: via French, ultimately from Greek phalanx


noun plural phalanxes or phalanges (fæˈlændʒiːz)
  1. an ancient Greek and Macedonian battle formation of hoplites presenting long spears from behind a wall of overlapping shields
  2. any closely ranked unit or mass of peoplethe police formed a phalanx to protect the embassy
  3. a number of people united for a common purpose
  4. (in Fourierism) a group of approximately 1800 persons forming a commune in which all property is collectively owned
  5. anatomy any of the bones of the fingers or toesRelated adjective: phalangeal
  6. botany
    1. a bundle of stamens, joined together by their stalks (filaments)
    2. a form of vegetative spread in which the advance is on a broad front, as in the common reedCompare guerrilla

Word Origin for phalanx

C16: via Latin from Greek: infantry formation in close ranks, bone of finger or toe
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

Word Origin and History for phalanges



1550s, "line of battle in close ranks," from Latin phalanx "compact body of heavily armed men in battle array," or directly from Greek phalanx (genitive phalangos) "line of battle, battle array," also "finger or toe bone," originally "round piece of wood, trunk, log," of unknown origin. Perhaps from PIE root *bhelg- "plank, beam" (cf. Old English balca "balk;" see balk (n.)). The Macedonian phalanx consisted of 50 close files of 16 men each. In anatomy, originally the whole row of finger joints, which fit together like infantry in close order. Figurative sense of "number of persons banded together in a common cause" is attested from 1600 (cf. Spanish Falangist, member of a fascist organization founded in 1933).



mid-15c., "phalanx, ancient military division," from Middle French phalange "phalanx" (13c.), from Latin phalangem (nominative phalanx); see phalanx. It is the earlier form of this word in English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

phalanges in Medicine


[fālăngks′, fălăngks′]
n. pl. pha•lanx•es
  1. Any of the long bones of the fingers or toes, numbering 14 for each hand or foot: two for the thumb or big toe, and three each for the other four digits.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

phalanges in Science


Plural phalanges (fə-lănjēz)
  1. Any of the small bones of the fingers or toes in humans or the digits of many other vertebrates.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.