dei·​non·​y·​chus (ˌ)dī-ˈnä-ni-kəs How to pronounce deinonychus (audio)
: any of a genus (Deinonychus) of small bipedal carnivorous theropod dinosaurs from the Cretaceous having a very large sharp claw on the second digit of both hind feet

Examples of deinonychus in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In May, a skeleton of a deinonychus–the dinosaur that inspired the velociraptors heavily featured in the Jurassic Park franchise–sold at Christie’s for $12.4 million. Carlie Porterfield, Forbes, 5 July 2022 Complete deinonychus fossils are among the rarest of all dinosaur skeletons, and Hector is the only complete specimen in private hands, according to Christie’s (two others reside in museum collections). Carlie Porterfield, Forbes, 13 May 2022 Outside the academy, the 12-foot-tall pink orchid mantis next to the double-deinonychuses is more than just a pretty decoration. Lauren McCutcheon,, 6 June 2018 This finding helps show that the raptor group included not only terrestrial killing machines like deinonychus and potentially flying members like microraptor, but also swimmers. Nicholas St. Fleur, New York Times, 6 Dec. 2017

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

Word History


borrowed from New Latin, genus name, borrowed from Greek deinós "inspiring dread or awe"+ -onychos "having claws (of the kind specified)," adjective derivative of onych-, ónyx "nail, claw, hoof"; deinós going back to *dwei-nós, adjective derivative from the base of deídō "I fear," going back to *dé-dwoi-a, perfect from an Indo-European verb base *du̯ei- "fear," whence also perhaps Avestan duuaēθā- "threat" and (with root extension) Sanskrit (Vedic) dveṣtị "treats with hostility, hates" — more at nail entry 1

Note: The taxon was introduced by the American paleontologist John H. Ostrom (1928-2005) in "A new theropod dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Montana," Postilla - Peabody Museum, Yale University, no. 128 (February 25, 1969). The name is sometimes rendered as "terrible claw" in popular publications, but -onychus means "clawed," not "claw," and "terrible" is a somewhat misleading translation of deinós (see note at dinosaur). — For details of the formation of deinós see Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Leiden: Brill, 2009). To the list of outcomes of Indo-European *du̯ei-, Helmut Rix, et al., Lexikon der indogermanischen Verben, 2. Auflage (Wiesbaden, 2001), p. 130, adds Luwian kuwaya "be frightened," Tocharian A wiyo "frightened" (see detailed references there). Traditionally, Armenian erknč'im "I am frightened" (aorist erkeaw) has been grouped with this verb (thus, for example, Rix, Lexikon, cited above), though this has been disputed, and involves the question of whether Armenian initial erk- is a regular outcome of Indo-European *du̯-. For a discussion with bibliography see Hrach Martirosyan, Etymological Dictionary of the Armenian Inherited Lexicon (Leiden: Brill, 2009), p. 267-68, 721. See also dire.

First Known Use

1969, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of deinonychus was in 1969

Dictionary Entries Near deinonychus

Cite this Entry

“Deinonychus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

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