: a genus (the type of the family Belonidae) of needlefishes
noun or adjective

Word History


borrowed from New Latin, going back to Latin (Pliny) belonē "the pipefish Syngnathus acus," borrowed from Greek belónē "a sea fish (either the pipefish or the gar Belone belone), literally, needle," from bel- (base of uncertain meaning and origin) + -onē, suffix of instruments (as in akónē "whetstone," perónē "pin, tongue of a buckle")

Note: The genus name appears to have been suggested independently by both the German naturalist Lorenz Oken (in Lehrbuch der Naturgeschichte, 3. Theil, Zoologie, 2. Abteilung, Fleischthiere, Jena, 1816, p. 102) and by the French zoologist Georges Cuvier (Le règne animal, tome 2, Paris, 1817, p. 185), based on the specific epithet belone used by Linnaeus in the name Esox belone (now Belone belone). // Greek belónē has conventionally been seen as a derivative from the base of bállein "to throw, strike by throwing" as bélos "missile, dart, arrow" (with b- for expected d- presumably by analogy) and bólos "throw, cast, net" (see devil entry 1). But linguists since August Fick in the 19th century have rejected this connection on semantic grounds: needles are not thrown or launched. Alternatively, belónē has been connected with Greek déllithes "wasps, stinging insects" (a word known only from Hesychius) and further with Lithuanian gélti "to sting, prick, ache" (and a host of other less certain comparanda—see quell entry 1), though this would require a dialectal, presumably Aeolic origin for the initial b- in belónē.

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Dictionary Entries Near Belone

Cite this Entry

“Belone.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jul. 2024.

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