Definition of basilisk
1 : a legendary reptile with fatal breath and glance
2 : any of several crested tropical American lizards (genus Basiliscus of the family Iguanidae) related to the iguanas and noted for their ability to run on their hind legs
basilisk was our Word of the Day on 02/26/2009. Hear the podcast!
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
Recent Examples of basilisk from the Web
What’s more, early legends of the basilisk may have been inspired by cobras.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'basilisk.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Origin and Etymology of basilisk
Middle English, borrowed from Latin basiliscus “kind of snake,” borrowed from Greek basilískos “minor prince, kind of snake (presumably possessing a crown-like crest),” from basil-, base of basileús “king, prince” (of pre-Greek substratal origin) + -iskos, diminutive suffix
First Known Use: 13th centurySee Words from the same year
Did You Know?
In Hellenic and Roman legend, a basilisk (also called a cockatrice) was a serpent-like creature capable of destroying other creatures by way of its deadly stare. The modern basilisk is a lizard that belongs to the family Iguanidae and supposedly resembles this fabled monster; it has a large, inflatable crest atop its head and is sometimes called a "Jesus Christ lizard" for its ability to run quickly across the surface of water. The use of "basilisk" as an adjective occurs most frequently in phrases such as "basilisk stare"; recalling the notorious gaze of the legendary basilisk, it describes the deep and piercing look of someone who is frightening or seductive.
First Known Use of basilisk
BASILISK Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of basilisk for English Language Learners
in stories and legends : a reptile that can kill people by breathing on them or looking at them
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up basilisk? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).