chee·​tah ˈchē-tə How to pronounce cheetah (audio)
plural cheetahs also cheetah
: a long-legged, swift-moving cat (Acinonyx jubatus) about the size of a small leopard with a yellowish to tan coat covered with numerous round to oval black spots and blunt claws that only partially retract and having a current range restricted to Africa and isolated parts of Iran

Illustration of cheetah

Illustration of cheetah

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A cheetah is a slender, long-legged cat that lives on the plains of Africa and in the Middle East, where it is threatened with extinction. It is the fastest land animal in the world over short distances and can reach a speed of 60 mph (100 kph). Its claws differ from those of other cats in being only partly retractable and lacking protective sheaths. Cheetahs purr rather than roar. Cheetahs grow to about 55 in. (140 cm) long, excluding the 29-31-in. (75-80-cm) tail, and weigh 110-130 lbs. (50-60 kg). Their coarse fur is sandy yellow above, white below, and covered with small black spots; a black streak runs down the face from the corner of each eye.

Examples of cheetah in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Attendees will meet Tavi the cheetah, and Yara, his yellow lab friend, along with Jackie Navarro, Wild Wonders’ founder and director. The San Diego Union-Tribune Staff, San Diego Union-Tribune, 31 Jan. 2024 During their search for White Castle sliders, Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) encounter an escaped cheetah, racist cops, and a randy Neil Patrick Harris. Ew Staff Updated,, 30 Nov. 2023 But historically, the cheetah was admired as a symbol of status and an ideal hunting companion — a reverence that ironically further pressured cheetah populations. Katie Liu, Discover Magazine, 20 Oct. 2023 Paris posed for photos at the event, wearing an unbuttoned cheetah print overcoat. Angel Saunders, Peoplemag, 6 Feb. 2024 Part of a group of environmental activists carrying out research on Iran’s endangered cheetah population, he was arrested in 2018 and convicted of espionage in 2019. Patrick Smith, NBC News, 20 Sep. 2023 But even when your gaze is transfixed by the horizon, the eye keeps getting distracted—by the cheetah cast in bronze standing guard next to the pool, or a larger-than-life re-creation of a woman’s face gazing out over the waves. Sarah Khan, Robb Report, 7 Sep. 2023 Attendees will meet Tavi the cheetah, and Yara, his yellow Lab friend, along with Jackie Navarro, Wild Wonders’ founder and director. Linda McIntosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 20 Jan. 2024 Shoppers have their choice between 30 hues and patterns, including neutral basics like beige and black and spanning to statement-making options like firework print, florals, gray camo, or wild cheetah spots. Olivia Young, Travel + Leisure, 1 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cheetah.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Hindi cītā & Urdu chītā leopard, from Sanskrit citraka, from citra bright, variegated; akin to Old High German heitar bright — more at -hood

First Known Use

1563, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cheetah was in 1563

Dictionary Entries Near cheetah

Cite this Entry

“Cheetah.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


chee·​tah ˈchēt-ə How to pronounce cheetah (audio)
: a long-legged spotted African and formerly Asian cat that is the fastest of all animals on land

More from Merriam-Webster on cheetah

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