\ ˈēl How to pronounce eel (audio) \

Definition of eel

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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)


eeled; eeling; eels

Definition of eel (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive + intransitive

1a : 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

Illustration of eel

Illustration of eel


eel 1a

In the meaning defined above

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Other Words from eel


eellike \ ˈēl-​ˌlīk How to pronounce eel (audio) \ adjective
eely \ ˈē-​lē How to pronounce eel (audio) \ adjective

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.

Examples of eel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Sutton flails about like an eel on shore while Crystal is the calm hawk waiting to swoop down and make a meal out of her. Brian Moylan, Vulture, 14 July 2021 Nature: When an eel climbs a ramp to eat squid from a clamp, that’s a moray. New York Times, 23 June 2021 The Caecilian, a legless amphibian that ranges from 5 centimeters to 5 feet long and resembles an eel or a snake, was discovered in a canal in Miami by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers. Chris Perkins,, 30 July 2021 Some body began talking about chopping off turtles' heads, dipping them into eel sauce and eating them; cooking ions' balls deep friend and thin sliced, and eating them with ketchup; and chewing on a nice, fat, birds head with a nice bottle of wine. Rebecca Coffey, Forbes, 28 June 2021 Another eel, named Benjen, joined Dr. Mehta’s lab early on. New York Times, 22 June 2021 Here was a great center of commerce on the river called the Muhheakantuck, where Mohawks, Seneca, Delaware, Iroquois, and other nations came for trade, oysters, and eel. Jerry Saltz, Vulture, 10 June 2021 The items were — and still are — less expensive but still contain the same fresh cuts of albacore, salmon, eel, yellowtail or escolar. Kathy Stephenson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 30 Apr. 2021 In a new grill room where Bottura’s chefs will work in the open behind a red lacquered bar—searing short ribs, eel and fresh vegetables over coals on a Josper grill—Mahdavi installed red vintage Cassina chairs designed by Vico Magistretti. Danilo Scarpati, WSJ, 8 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb These men eel entitled and had been protected from being outed. James Warren,, 20 Oct. 2017 These men eel entitled and had been protected from being outed. James Warren, The Hive, 20 Oct. 2017

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.

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First Known Use of eel


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


1922, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for eel


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

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Time Traveler for eel

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near eel



eel-back flounder

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Statistics for eel

Last Updated

24 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Eel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for eel



English Language Learners Definition of eel

: a long fish that looks like a snake and has smooth slippery skin


\ ˈēl How to pronounce eel (audio) \

Kids Definition of eel

: a long fish that looks like a snake and has smooth slimy skin

More from Merriam-Webster on eel

Nglish: Translation of eel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of eel for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about eel


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