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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web 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 The polarized light microscope revealed five times more rings in the coelacanth’s scales than anyone had seen before. Max G. Levy, Wired, 23 June 2021 In the past, scientists calculated fish ages by counting big lines on a specific coelacanth scale. Seth Borenstein, Star Tribune, 17 June 2021 However, a recent study published in the SA Journal of Science revealed that as of May 2020 as many as 334 coelacanth captures had been documented. Julia Musto, Fox News, 22 May 2021 But how much of an impact these accidental catches are having on the overall population of either coelacanth species is completely unknown. Mike Wehner, BGR, 21 May 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'coelacanth.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 7 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


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

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