chrys·​o·​me·​lid ˌkri-sə-ˈme-ləd How to pronounce chrysomelid (audio) -ˈmē- How to pronounce chrysomelid (audio)
: any of a large family (Chrysomelidae) of small, usually oval and smooth, shining, and brightly colored beetles (such as the Colorado potato beetle)
chrysomelid adjective

Word History


from stem of New Latin Chrysomelidae, family name, from Chrysomela, a genus, probably extracted from Greek chrȳsomēlolónthion "little golden cockchafer" (used as a term of endearment in Aristophanes' The Wasps), from chrȳso- chryso- + -mēlolonthion, diminutive formation from mēlolónthē "cockchafer," compound from mêlon "smaller domesticated herd animal, sheep or goat" and ólonthos "fruit of the wild fig"; mêlon probably going back to Indo-European *meh1lo-, whence also Middle Irish míl "animal," Welsh & Breton mil "animal, beast," Old Low Franconian mala "cow" (in gloss to the Salic Laws), Dutch maal "year-and-a-half-old cow"; ólonthos, ólynthos, of pre-Greek substratal origin

Note: The genus name Chrysomela was introduced by linnaeus in Systema naturae, tomus 1 (Stockholm, 1758), p. 368, based on his own earlier use in Fauna Suecica (Leiden, 1746), p. 147. The Greek compound mēlolónthē appears to be reduced from a phrasal collocation *mêlon olónthion "fig sheep" (cf. hippopotamus), apparently so called because the cockchafer feeds on wild figs. A variety of other words have been adduced in support of Indo-European *meh1lo-. Armenian mal "bullock, cattle," has been suggested, but Martirosyan (Etymological Dictionary of the Armenian Inherited Lexicon, Brill, 2009) believes it represents a borrowing from Arabic māl "possessions." Also suggested are Ukrainian malʼ (collective) "young sheep" and regional Russian malíč "breed of Crimean sheep," though given the location and the lack of other Slavic evidence these may be borrowings from Crimean Tatar or Turkish mal "possessions, cattle," ultimately from Arabic. More fundamental are long-proposed links with Slavic (Old Church Slavic malŭ "small, little," Russian mályj, Serbian & Croatian mȁo, etc., from *moh1l-?) and Germanic *smala- "small, little" (from *s-mh1l-, with mobile s?)—see small entry 1.

First Known Use

circa 1904, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of chrysomelid was circa 1904

Dictionary Entries Near chrysomelid

Cite this Entry

“Chrysomelid.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Jan. 2023.

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