\ 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 eellike (audio) \ adjective
eely \ ˈē-​lē How to pronounce eely (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 Maine’s baby eel fishermen had a productive year in the state’s rivers and streams, but the price for the eels was much lower than usual., "Prices at the pump start to rise as people return to work," 9 June 2020 Amazing Roll with eel, sweet potato and cream cheese. Tirion Morris, azcentral, "Sushi, sandwiches and dessert: Here are 3 new restaurants now open in Chandler and Gilbert," 9 June 2020 Commercially prepared catfish baits available from tackle shops are popular, and in brackish water, menhaden, crabs, eels, and shrimp are good. Bob Mcnally, Field & Stream, "The Beginner’s Guide to Catching Your First Fish," 11 May 2020 Nearby, the ship’s wheel awaits your turn as a fun photo opportunity with the eels and other residents, including spiny lobsters and hundreds of fish. Jeanne Houck,, "'Shipwreck: Realm of the Eels' opens Friday at the Newport Aquarium," 2 Mar. 2020 Then populations of eel and smelt, which feed on those creatures, crashed as well. Joel Sartore, National Geographic, "How can cute things be so destructive?," 21 Nov. 2019 Bass have been caught on dozens of different types of live baits, from marine eels, frogs, and crabs to virtually any baitfish species of suitable size for bass to devour. Bob Mcnally, Field & Stream, "The Beginner’s Guide to Catching Your First Fish," 11 May 2020 As young larvae, baby eels drift around the sea for between seven months and three years. National Geographic, "European eel," 25 Mar. 2020 The baby eels are used as seed stock by Asian aquaculture companies and can fetch more than $2,000 per pound at the docks. USA TODAY, "Distancing failures, equipment roadblocks, testing limits: News from around our 50 states," 23 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb These men eel entitled and had been protected from being outed. James Warren,, "How Hollywood Will Change After Weinstein," 20 Oct. 2017 These men eel entitled and had been protected from being outed. James Warren, The Hive, "How Hollywood Will Change After Weinstein," 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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Statistics for eel

Last Updated

24 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Eel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for eel


How to pronounce eel (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on eel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with eel

Spanish Central: Translation of eel

Nglish: Translation of eel for Spanish Speakers

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

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