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physical environment

Definition of Physical Environment

(noun) The physical world people experience through their senses.

Examples of Physical Environment

  • air
  • animals
  • built environment
  • climate
  • land
  • plants
  • sounds
  • structures around an individual

Physical Environment Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: phys·i·cal en·vi·ron·ment

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /fIz-i-kuhl in-vIE-ruhn-muhnt/
  • British English – /fIz-i-kuhl in-vIE-uh-ruhn-muhnt/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈfɪzɪkəl ɪnˈvaɪrənmənt/
  • British English – /ˈfɪzɪkəl ɪnˈvaɪərənmənt/

Usage Note

  • Plural: physical environments

Related Quotations

  • “[A]spects of social life . . . cannot be explained in terms of the biological or mental characteristics of the individual. People experience social facts as external to themselves in the sense that facts have an independent reality and form a part of people’s objective environment” (Hughes and Kroehler 2008:13).
  • “At the most basic level, material culture is important because it is our buffer against the environment. For example, we create shelter to protect ourselves from the weather and give ourselves privacy” (Kendall 2006:45–46).
  • “Each of us is a social being. We are born into a social environment; we fully develop into human beings in a social environment; and we live our lives in a social environment. What we think, how we feel, and what we say and do all are shaped by our interactions with other people. The scientific study of these social interactions and of social organization is called sociology” (Hughes and Kroehler 2008:3).
  • “The idea of green jobs is what sociologists, and increasingly journalists, call a ‘frame.’ It is intended to neutralize and overcome the view that pits jobs against the environment. The green jobs frame facilitates an alliance that some large industrial corporations, unions, social justice advocates, and environmental organizations, have forged to promote a common ground of environmental reform and industrial development. The frame speaks to the chronic unemployment and underemployment that many Americans face, and it articulates the goal of creating high-quality jobs” (Hess 2012:2).
  • “The kind of person we become depends greatly on what we learn during our formative years from our surrounding social groups and social environment” (Kendall 2006:105).

Additional Information

Related Terms


Hess, David J. 2012. Good Green Jobs in a Global Economy: Making and Keeping New Industries in the United States. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2008. Sociology: The Core. 8th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Kendall, Diana. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Cite the Definition of Physical Environment

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “physical environment.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved April 22, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/physical-environment/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

physical environment. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/physical-environment/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “physical environment.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/physical-environment/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“physical environment.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/physical-environment/>.