Definition of cladistics in US English:


plural noun

  • treated as singular A method of classification of animals and plants according to the proportion of measurable characteristics that they have in common. It is assumed that the higher the proportion of characteristics that two organisms share, the more recently they diverged from a common ancestor.

    • ‘The basic idea behind cladistics is that members of a group share a common evolutionary history, and are ‘closely related’, more so to members of the same group than to other organisms.’
    • ‘Today, cladistics is the method of choice for classifying life because it recognizes and employs evolutionary theory.’
    • ‘He was an early champion of cladistics in paleontology, which at the time was a new approach to studying questions in that subject.’
    • ‘Of course, it is possible to do cladistics without reference to evolution, but nothing in biology makes much sense-including cladistics-except in the light of evolution.’
    • ‘The second half of the 20th century has seen the advent of two revolutions in systematics: cladistics and molecular phylogenetics.’


1960s: from clade + -ist + -ics.