echid·​na | \ i-ˈkid-nə How to pronounce echidna (audio) \

Definition of echidna

: a spiny-coated toothless burrowing nocturnal monotreme mammal (Tachyglossus aculeatus) of Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea that has a long extensible tongue and long heavy claws and that feeds chiefly on ants also : a related mammal (Zaglossus bruijni) of New Guinea having a longer snout and shorter spines

Illustration of echidna

Illustration of echidna

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

There are two species of echidna. Both are egg-laying mammals that are stocky and virtually tailless. They have strong-clawed feet and spines on the upper part of a brownish body. The snout is narrow and the mouth is small, with a tongue that is long and sticky for feeding on termites and ants, their chief food. New Guinea echidnas are 18–31 in (45–78 cm) long and piglike. Valued for their meat, they are declining in numbers. Echidnas of Australia and Tasmania are 14–21 in (35–53 cm) long. Echidnas exude milk from mammary openings on the skin, and the young lap it up.

Examples of echidna in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Plans are to introduce Shaw, a male echidna animal ambassador, to a female. San Diego Union-Tribune, "‘Roos, geese, and a blue-tongued lizard: Behind the scenes at San Diego Zoo Safari Park," 8 June 2019 Visitors can see 1,700 creatures from more than 250 different species, including dingoes (Australian dogs), echidnas (similar to porcupines) and Tasmanian devils (the carnivorous marsupials, not the cartoon characters). Washington Post, "Skip Sydney’s typical city zoo for an Australian-animal park where you can touch a koala," 25 July 2019 From the Australia tour, per The Telegraph: They were handed at least 97 soft toys and teddies, including 11 koalas, five kangaroos, four kiwis and one echidna. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Baby Sussex's Gifts From Australian Fans Include 11 Stuffed Koalas and Three Boomerangs," 5 Apr. 2019 For example, leading zoos around the world over the decades have managed to breed fewer than 50 echidnas — strange, egg-laying mammals that resemble hedgehogs. Rachel Nuwer, New York Times, "That Python in the Pet Store? It May Have Been Snatched From the Wild," 9 Apr. 2018 Working with the Taronga Zoo in suburban Sydney, Dr. Brandis has also tested the quills of captive and wild echidnas, in the hope of developing a similar tool that could identify animals that have been poached. New York Times, "Where Do Birds Flock Together? Australians Are Mailing In Feathers to Help Find Out," 21 Mar. 2018 Scientists say the samples can help them learn about echidna health, diet and stress levels. Mike Cherney, WSJ, "Scientists Want Regular People to Lend a Hand, Immediately Regret Asking," 8 Mar. 2018 Other notable animals include the platypus and echidna, both mammals that lay eggs. Andrea Rumbaugh, Houston Chronicle, "See unusual animals at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia," 12 Feb. 2018 After the kangaroos came milk formulas for echidnas (whose babies are called puggles), sugar gliders, wombats and other Australian native animals. Serena Solomon, New York Times, "Saving Koalas, and Other Marsupials, With Milk Almost as Good as Mom’s," 24 Feb. 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of echidna

1832, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for echidna

New Latin, from Latin, viper, from Greek — more at ophitic

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about echidna

Statistics for echidna

Last Updated

25 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for echidna

The first known use of echidna was in 1832

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on echidna Encyclopedia article about echidna

Comments on echidna

What made you want to look up echidna? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


suitable to be imparted to the public

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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