[fahy-luh m]
noun, plural phy·la [fahy-luh] /ˈfaɪ lə/.
  1. Biology. the primary subdivision of a taxonomic kingdom, grouping together all classes of organisms that have the same body plan.
  2. 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 formsphy·lar, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for phylum

Historical Examples of phylum

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

    The Sea-beach at Ebb-tide

    Augusta Foote Arnold

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

  • Hence these five backboned classes may be brought together into a higher group called a branch or phylum.

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

    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

British Dictionary definitions for phylum


noun plural -la (-lə)
  1. 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)
  2. any analogous group, such as a group of related language families or linguistic stocks

Word Origin for phylum

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

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

phylum in Medicine


n. pl. phy•la (-lə)
  1. 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.

phylum in Science


Plural phyla
  1. A group of organisms ranking above a class and below a kingdom. See Table at taxonomy.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

phylum in Culture



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 New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.