du·​gong ˈdü-ˌgäŋ How to pronounce dugong (audio)
plural dugongs also dugong
: an aquatic, herbivorous, usually brownish-gray mammal (Dugong dugon) that inhabits warm coastal waters chiefly of southern Asia, Australia, and eastern Africa and resembles the related manatee but differs in having a notched tail divided into two lobes and upper incisors which grow into small tusks in the male

Note: The dugong commonly attains a length of 8 feet (2.4 meters) or more. It is the sole living species in its taxonomic family (Dugongidae) which also includes the extinct Steller's sea cow and various sirenians known only from fossilized remains.

Illustration of dugong

Illustration of dugong

Examples of dugong in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Last year, scientists reported that dugongs are functionally extinct in China. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 Sep. 2023 Other animals – particularly turtles, dugongs, and dolphins – can become entangled in the nets and drown. Cameron Pugh, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Aug. 2023 Some believe that aquatic mammals such as manatees and dugongs inspired mermaid legends. Monica Cull, Discover Magazine, 24 July 2023 The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) designated the dugong a vulnerable species in 1982, but says the degree to which dugong numbers have dwindled is unknown. Jacopo Prisco, CNN, 21 Oct. 2022 The archipelago is also home to around 4,000 shy endangered dugongs, a species that feeds on seagrass beds and plays an important role in the overall ecosystem, and at certain times of year, whale sharks can be found here. Robb Report Studio, Robb Report, 26 June 2023 This information, combined with historical dugong records, indicates that there has been no scientific field observation of a dugong since 2000. Monica Cull, Discover Magazine, 12 Dec. 2022 This year, the union is sounding the alarm about the dugong — a large and docile marine mammal that lives from the eastern coast of Africa to the western Pacific Ocean. Patrick Whittle, ajc, 10 Dec. 2022 The dugong is a cousin of the manatee. Monica Cull, Discover Magazine, 12 Dec. 2022 See More

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

Word History


New Latin, genus name, probably from dugung in Cebuano or a related Austronesian language of the central Philippines

First Known Use

1800, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of dugong was in 1800

Dictionary Entries Near dugong

Cite this Entry

“Dugong.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dugong. Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


du·​gong ˈdü-ˌgäng How to pronounce dugong (audio)
: a mammal that lives in water, eats plants, and is related to the manatees but has a two-lobed tail and tusks in the male

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