echidna

noun
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

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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 That was not the case with his latest character, a surly red cartoon echidna named Knuckles. New York Times, 8 Apr. 2022 Knuckles, a red echidna with spiky knuckles who’s sometimes a friend and foe of Sonic in the games, is voiced by Idris Elba. Jennifer Yuma, Variety, 9 Dec. 2021 The echidna’s eyes were irritated by hearth-smoke, so Afek told it to go to the high forest. Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books, 3 Dec. 2020 The echidna’s eyes were irritated by hearth-smoke, so Afek told it to go to the high forest. Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books, 3 Dec. 2020 The echidna’s eyes were irritated by hearth-smoke, so Afek told it to go to the high forest. Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books, 3 Dec. 2020 The echidna’s eyes were irritated by hearth-smoke, so Afek told it to go to the high forest. Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books, 3 Dec. 2020 The echidna’s eyes were irritated by hearth-smoke, so Afek told it to go to the high forest. Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books, 3 Dec. 2020 The echidna’s eyes were irritated by hearth-smoke, so Afek told it to go to the high forest. Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books, 3 Dec. 2020 See More

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.

First Known Use of echidna

1832, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for echidna

borrowed from New Latin, genus name, going back to Latin, "snake, viper (as an attribute of the Furies)," borrowed from Greek échidna "viper, creature of myth combining the bodies of a woman and a snake," of uncertain origin

Note: The name Echidna was first used without a formal description by Georges cuvier in Tableau élémentaire de l'histoire naturelle des animaux (Paris: An 6 [1798]), p. 143: "Fourmiliers épineux (echidna) : à corps ouverts de piquans. On n'en connoît q'une espèce, qui est de la Nouvelle-Hollande, et a les pieds et la queue excessivement courts." ("Spiny anteaters (echidna): with a body covered in spines. Only one species is known, which is from New Holland [Australia], the feet and tail of which are extremely short.") As Echidna had been used earlier (1788) for a genus of fish, it was replaced in taxonomy by the genus name Tachyglossus in 1811. — Greek échidna has usually been taken to be a derivative of échis "viper," by derivation with the suffix -ja from a presumed adjective *echidnós "of a viper," from échis "viper," an i-stem. R. Beekes, however, regards -dna as a typical pre-Greek suffix and thus assigns échidna to a pre-Greek non-Indo-European substratum (Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009).

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The first known use of echidna was in 1832

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Echeverría (Álvarez)

echidna

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Last Updated

17 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Echidna.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/echidna. Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about echidna

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