bas·​i·​lisk | \ ˈba-sə-ˌlisk How to pronounce basilisk (audio) , ˈba-zə- \

Definition of basilisk

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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



Definition of basilisk (Entry 2 of 2)

: suggesting a basilisk : baleful, spellbinding the eyes … with all their blaze of basilisk horror— Bram Stoker

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Examples of basilisk in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Connelly and her fellow stain-hunters were not interested in basilisks one day last November. Tom Avril,, "Scans reveal secrets of medieval 'Harry Potter' book and medical texts at Penn," 14 May 2018 In the original books, Harry's missions were always 100% necessary (ex: Saving the Sorcerer's Stone from Voldemort, saving Ginny Weasley from the basilisk, saving Sirius from Voldemort, hunting down Horcruxes). Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "After Reading The "Harry Potter" Series 20 Times, Here's Why I'll Never Touch "Cursed Child" Again," 25 Oct. 2016 In some stories, the crowing of a rooster is fatal to the mythological snake known as a basilisk. National Geographic, "See How This Rooster Fought Off a Cobra," 30 Aug. 2017 What’s more, early legends of the basilisk may have been inspired by cobras. National Geographic, "8 Real-Life ‘Fantastic Beasts’ and Where to Find Them," 18 Nov. 2016

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.

See More

First Known Use of basilisk


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for 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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about basilisk

Time Traveler for basilisk

Time Traveler

The first known use of basilisk was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about basilisk

Statistics for basilisk

Cite this Entry

“Basilisk.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 7 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for basilisk


How to pronounce basilisk (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of basilisk

in stories and legends : a reptile that can kill people by breathing on them or looking at them

More from Merriam-Webster on basilisk

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with basilisk Encyclopedia article about basilisk

Comments on basilisk

What made you want to look up basilisk? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the study of flags

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Semantic Drift Quiz

  • a twisty river
  • Which of the following was once a synonym for fun?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!