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noun \ˈlēch\

Definition of LEECH

archaic :  physician, surgeon
[from its former use by physicians for bleeding patients] :  any of numerous carnivorous or bloodsucking usually freshwater annelid worms (class Hirudinea) that have typically a flattened lanceolate segmented body with a sucker at each end
:  a hanger-on who seeks advantage or gain
leech·like \-ˌlīk\ adjective

Origin of LEECH

Middle English leche, from Old English ̄ce; akin to Old High German lāhhi physician
First Known Use: before 12th century

Synonym Discussion of LEECH

parasite, sycophant, toady, leech, sponge mean a usually obsequious flatterer or self-seeker. parasite applies to one who clings to a person of wealth, power, or influence or is useless to society <a jet-setter with an entourage of parasites>. sycophant adds to this a strong suggestion of fawning, flattery, or adulation <a powerful prince surrounded by sycophants>. toady emphasizes the servility and snobbery of the self-seeker <cultivated leaders of society and became their toady>. leech stresses persistence in clinging to or bleeding another for one's own advantage <a leech living off his family and friends>. sponge stresses the parasitic laziness, dependence, and opportunism of the cadger <a shiftless sponge, always looking for a handout>.

Other Invertebrates (Except Insects) Terms

anemone, cephalopod, quahog



Definition of LEECH

transitive verb
:  to bleed by the use of leeches
:  to drain the substance of :  exhaust
intransitive verb
:  to attach oneself to a person as a leech

First Known Use of LEECH



noun \ˈlēch\

Definition of LEECH

:  either vertical edge of a square sail
:  the after edge of a fore-and-aft sail

Variants of LEECH

leech also leach \ˈlēch\

Origin of LEECH

Middle English leche; akin to Middle Low German līk boltrope
First Known Use: 15th century
LEECH Defined for Kids


noun \ˈlēch\

Definition of LEECH for Kids

:  a bloodsucking worm related to the earthworm
:  a person who stays around other people and uses them for personal gain

Word History of LEECH

Originally the English word leech meant doctor. Centuries ago doctors thought that a good way to cure sick people was to make them bleed. The blood of a sick person supposedly had harmful things in it that would flow away with the blood. To take bad blood out of sick people, early doctors often used little worms that suck blood. Leech, the word for a doctor, came to be used for these worms as well.


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