plural noun

: a family of fishes that have a narrow compressed body and thoracic ventral fins, are usually black or bright scarlet, and live chiefly in rather deep water

Word History


New Latin, from Beryc-, Beryx, a fish genus (altered from Greek bêrys, a fish name) + -idae -idae

Note: The genus Beryx was introduced by Georges Cuvier and Achille Valenciennes in Histoire naturelle des poissons, tome 3 (Paris, 1829), p. 221: "Beryx, ou berys, est un nom grec de poisson que Gesner a tiré de Varinus, et sans que l'on trouve aucune indication qui puisse conduire à en déterminer l'espèce. Je m'en empare pour désigner des poissons inconnus jusqu'à ce jour, et qui doivent former dans la famille des perches un genre particulier" ("Beryx, or berys, is a Greek fish name that Gesner took from Varinus, without any indication that could lead one to determine the species. I am appropriating it to designate some fishes unknown to this day, which must form a particular genus within the perch family"). Cuvier and Valenciennes allude to the 16th-century naturalist Conrad Gesner, whose encyclopedic Historia animalium contains the following entry: berys, bêrys [Greek letters], piscis ['fish'], Varinus" (Historiae animalium Liber IIII. qui est de Piscium & Aquatilium natura, Zürich, 1558, p. 146). The Varinus in question is the humanist scholar and cleric Guarino Favorino/Guarino da Favera/Varinus Phavorinus (ca. 1445/50-1537), who produced a significant Greek dictionary (Méga kaì pány ōphélimon lexikón/Magnum ac perutile dictionarium, Rome, 1523). Varinus' dictionary utilized the collection of Greek glosses made by Hesychius (5th century a.d.), from which bêrys (glossed ichthýs, 'fish') is drawn. Liddell and Scott's dictionary notes the similarity of bêrys to mêryx, supposedly a name for the Mediterranean parrotfish, Sparisoma cretense, though this may be accidental; note that mêryx appears to be drawn from mērikázein, etc., "ruminate, chew the cud," a verb that does not show m/b alternation.

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Dictionary Entries Near Berycidae

Cite this Entry

“Berycidae.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

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