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[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. 2015.
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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
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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