cleaner fish

noun

: any of several small fish that clean larger fish of parasites and dead tissue
especially : cleaner wrasse
So-called cleaner fish are among the best-known examples of mutualism in nature. These small fish eat parasites off the skin of larger fish, and it's a win-win situation—the small fish gets food and protection from predators while the larger one stays clean and healthy. Henry Fountain, New York Times, 28 Apr. 2009

Word History

First Known Use

1958, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cleaner fish was in 1958

Love words?

You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!

Dictionary Entries Near cleaner fish

Cite this Entry

“Cleaner fish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cleaner%20fish. Accessed 17 Jun. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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