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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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 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, "In the Soup," 17 Nov. 2020 The echidna — an egg-laying mammal that looks like a hedgehog with a long snout — has no nipples at all. Elizabeth Preston, New York Times, "What’s a ‘Normal’ Amount of Time to Breastfeed?," 15 Apr. 2020 Another indicator comes in late winter when echidnas — a native Australian mammal similar to a hedgehog — form breeding trains: the female in front, with two or three, even as many as six males waddling behind her, hoping for a chance to breed. Aarti Betigeri, Time, "How Australia's Indigenous Experts Could Help Deal With Devastating Wildfires," 14 Jan. 2020 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

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.

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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

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The first known use of echidna was in 1832

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Cite this Entry

“Echidna.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

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