coe·​la·​canth ˈsē-lə-ˌkan(t)th How to pronounce coelacanth (audio)
: any of an order (Coelacanthiformes) of lobe-finned fishes known chiefly from Paleozoic and Mesozoic fossils

Illustration of coelacanth

Illustration of coelacanth

Examples of coelacanth in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In the years since completing the fugu genome in 2002, Venkatesh — known universally as Venki — has sequenced the genomes of more than a dozen fishes, from sharks to the living-fossil coelacanth to his personal favorite, the seahorse. Bob Holmes, Discover Magazine, 21 May 2018 One glaring exception to this kind of locomotion is a deep-water fish known as the coelacanth. Carl Zimmer, Discover Magazine, 12 Dec. 2011 The coelacanth may live for a century. Geek's Guide To The Galaxy, WIRED, 16 July 2021 Less imposing critters have indeed shown up unexpectedly; in 1938 biologists identified a living coelacanth—a species of fish presumed extinct for about 65 million years. Riley Black, Popular Science, 15 Oct. 2020 Its relatives were once widespread and more diverse, but now, like the coelacanth, they’ve been reduced to two endangered species living on the New Zealand islands. Cody Cottier, Discover Magazine, 11 Nov. 2021 Some other living fossils include the coelacanth, the horseshoe crab, and the nautilus. Joseph Castro, Discover Magazine, 17 Aug. 2011 Take the coelacanth, a bony fish that was thought to have become extinct millions of years ago but was found in 1938 by a South African museum curator on a fishing trawler. Jenny Gross, New York Times, 4 Aug. 2022 The coelacanth — a giant weird fish still around from dinosaur times — can live for 100 years, a new study found. Seth Borenstein, Star Tribune, 17 June 2021

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

Word History


ultimately from Greek koilos hollow + akantha spine — more at cave

First Known Use

1857, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of coelacanth was in 1857

Dictionary Entries Near coelacanth

Cite this Entry

“Coelacanth.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a fish or fossil of a group of mostly extinct fishes
coelacanth adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on coelacanth

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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