basilisk

noun
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

basilisk

adjective

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?

Adjective

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 The catoblepas and, more famously, the basilisk, both described by Pliny the Elder, could kill with the single glance. Robert Martone, Scientific American, 29 Dec. 2020 Small, lightweight water striders, for instance, rely entirely on surface tension to stay afloat, while the larger, heavier basilisk lizards employ a slapping motion with their feet that creates pockets of air bubbles to keep from sinking. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 11 May 2020 Connelly and her fellow stain-hunters were not interested in basilisks one day last November. Tom Avril, Philly.com, 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, 25 Oct. 2016 In some stories, the crowing of a rooster is fatal to the mythological snake known as a basilisk. National Geographic, 30 Aug. 2017 What’s more, early legends of the basilisk may have been inspired by cobras. National Geographic, 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

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for basilisk

Noun

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.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/basilisk. Accessed 23 Jul. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for basilisk

basilisk

noun

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

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about basilisk

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Typeshift

Anagram puzzles meet word search.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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