chi·​rop·​ter·​an kī-ˈräp-tə-rən How to pronounce chiropteran (audio)

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Chiroptera is the name of the order of the only mammal capable of true flight, the bat. The name is influenced by the hand-like wings of bats, which are formed from four elongated "fingers" covered by a cutaneous membrane. It is based on the Greek words for "hand," "cheir," and "wing," "pteron." "Cheir" also had a hand in the formation of the word surgery, which is ultimately derived from the ancient word cheirourgos, meaning "doing by hand." "Pteron" is widely used in technical names of flying insects. It’s also the ancestor of a well-known, common word: "helicopter," which joins "pteron" with Greek heliko, meaning "spiral."

Word History


ultimately from Greek cheir hand + pteron wing — more at feather

First Known Use

1835, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of chiropteran was in 1835


Dictionary Entries Near chiropteran

Cite this Entry

“Chiropteran.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jun. 2024.

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