eel

1 of 2

noun

1
a
: any of numerous voracious elongate snakelike bony fishes (order Anguilliformes) that have a smooth slimy skin, lack pelvic fins, and have the median fins confluent around the tail compare american eel
b
: any of numerous other elongate fishes (as of the order Synbranchiformes)
2
: any of various nematodes (such as the vinegar eel)
eellike adjective
eely adjective

Illustration of eel

Illustration of eel
  • eel 1a

eel

2 of 2

verb

eeled; eeling; eels

transitive + intransitive

1
a
: to fish for eels see also eeling
b
: to fish with eels as bait
2
: to move or make (one's way) sinuously or insidiously : worm
Stories my Russian friends had told me about the hundreds who were trampled at Stalin's funeral came back to me. Finally, we gave up and eeled our way out of there. Ian Frazier

Did you know?

There are more than 500 fish species known as eels. They are slender, elongated, and usually scaleless, with long dorsal and anal fi ns that are continuous around the tail tip. Eels are found in all seas, from coastal regions to the mid-depths. Freshwater eels are active, predatory fish with small embedded scales. They grow to maturity in freshwater and return to the sea, where they spawn and die. The transparent young drift to the coast and make their way upstream. Freshwater eels, considered valuable food fish, include species ranging from 4 in (10 cm) to about 111⁄2 ft (3.5 m) long.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Huge trees resemble jellyfish and eel-like creatures poke their heads inquisitively out of the ground. Kyle Smith, WSJ, 29 Sep. 2022 Public outreach efforts have also been important, says University of Tokyo eel biologist Michael Miller. Christina Couch, Smithsonian Magazine, 26 Sep. 2022 Soon the first snacks begin to arrive—a pork and eel fritter for sopping up a delicious creamy lovage emulsion; a cube of cheesy, buttery croissant dough kissed with birch-sap syrup. Jay Cheshes, Robb Report, 20 Aug. 2022 Earlier researchers identified tiny teeth within some of the alien goldfish fossils, which led them to think the animal was an extinct eel-like fish called a conodont, per the Times. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 23 Sep. 2022 After the efforts produced record eel populations, the state is planning to expand this effort by building a way for the eels to get across the dam themselves. Washington Post, 15 Sep. 2021 Although shark in name, these animals swim in a distinctly serpentine fashion, much like an eel. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 17 Aug. 2022 Disfrutar's creative menu includes a bun stuffed with caviar and sour cream as well as pesto served with pistachios and eel. Charles Trepany, USA TODAY, 20 July 2022 Unlike fatty pigs, bony chickens, and sinewy monkeys, eel meat was almost all soft skeletal muscle. Manvir Singh, Wired, 14 July 2022
Verb
With his brother-in-law as president, Mr. Saint-Rémy wielded enormous influence, often demanding that choice licenses and contracts be awarded to him, particularly eel export licenses, according to officials in Mr. Martelly’s government. New York Times, 12 Dec. 2021 These men eel entitled and had been protected from being outed. James Warren, vanityfair.com, 20 Oct. 2017 These men eel entitled and had been protected from being outed. James Warren, The Hive, 20 Oct. 2017 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English ele, from Old English ǣl; akin to Old High German āl eel

First Known Use

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

1922, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of eel was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near eel

Cite this Entry

“Eel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eel. Accessed 30 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

plural eels or eel
: any of numerous long snakelike fishes that have a smooth slimy skin and the fins in the middle of the back and bottom continuous around the tail
eellike adjective

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