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Morphology (biology)

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This article is about the biological field of morphology. For other uses of the term morphology, please see morphology (disambiguation).

Morphology is the branch of biology that deals with the structure of plants and animals, and with relationships between their structures. The term is also used to refer to the physical appearance, i.e. size, shape, color, texture, and location of something, e.g. the morphology of a cancerous mole versus a benign one.


The word morphology came into English in the mid 19th century from Greek words μορφή (morphi) meaning "shape or form" and λόγος (logos) meaning "speak". In English the suffix "-(o)logy" means "the study of". For ancient Greeks, study often involved a great deal of debate; and this is still true for scientists today.

Branches of morphology

The major branches of morphology are plant morphology, which is rarely called phytotomy, and animal morphology, called zootomy or anatomy.

The terms morphology and anatomy are almost synonymous and are often used interchangeably. However, morphology is more likely to be used in relation to plants and comparative anatomy, while the term anatomy is more likely to be used in relation to animals, especially mammals, and humans in particular. In medicine, morphology more often refers to the study of shape, general appearance, or form of a person's body (see also somatotype), as distinct from anatomy, which requires dissection to reveal structure.

Related words:

  1. the form and structure of natural communities
  2. a person's facial features or expression, especially in relation to the indication of character or ethnic origin.