• synonyms


  1. developed from more than one ancestral type, as a group of animals.
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Origin of polyphyletic

First recorded in 1870–75; poly- + phyletic
Related formspol·y·phy·let·i·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for polyphyletic

Historical Examples

  • Polyphyletic: derived or descended from several stems or sources.

    Explanation of Terms Used in Entomology

    John. B. Smith

  • Griffiths clearly showed that Noble's Brachycephalidae was a polyphyletic assemblage.

  • But what are we to say with regard to the series of repeated accidents which the polyphyletic hypothesis would seem to demand?

    Science and Morals and Other Essays

    Bertram Coghill Alan Windle

  • On the question as to whether descent was monophyletic or polyphyletic Darwin expressed no dogmatic opinion.

    Form and Function

    E. S. (Edward Stuart) Russell

  • He believed in saltatory evolution, in polyphyletic descent, and in the greater plasticity of the organism in earlier times.

    Form and Function

    E. S. (Edward Stuart) Russell

British Dictionary definitions for polyphyletic


  1. biology relating to or characterized by descent from more than one ancestral group of animals or plants
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Derived Formspolyphyletically, adverb

Word Origin

C19: from poly- + phyletic
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

polyphyletic in Medicine


  1. Descended or derived from more than one ancestral stock or source.
  2. Of or being the theory that blood cells are derived from several different stem cells, depending on the particular blood cell type.
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Related formspol′y•phyle•tism (-fīlĭ-tĭz′əm) n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

polyphyletic in Science


  1. Relating to a taxonomic group that does not include the common ancestor of the members of the group and whose members have two or more separate origins. A group that consists of flying vertebrates would be polyphyletic, as bats and birds independently evolved flight and do not share a common ancestor. Compare monophyletic paraphyletic.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.