\ 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 There are, however, favorable aspects of the license approved by FERC, Prost said, such as the programs to promote mussel restoration, fish and eel passage, turtle management and waterfowl nesting. Christine Condon,, "New 50-year Conowingo Dam license gets federal OK, but environmental groups worry it won’t do enough to stop pollution overflows," 26 Mar. 2021 But salt-and-pepper seafood, eel in black-bean sauce, and other favorites travel excellently. Kara Baskin,, "100 top restaurants for takeout in Boston and beyond," 11 Feb. 2021 From the sushi bar, the Kin House Roll ($16) weaves together tuna, soft-shell crab, yellowtail, fish eggs, salmon and eel sauce for a complex but focused experience. Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, "3 great new San Antonio Thai restaurants: Hello Paradise, Kin Thai & Sushi and Hew by Akhanay Coffee Roasters," 11 Feb. 2021 The fish in question, called a zoarcid, looks like a creature caught in an identity crisis, too long to be a fish but too short to be an eel, its lips permanently drooping in a sullen pout. Sabrina Imbler, The Atlantic, "An Epic Journey to Adulthood Begins in the Intestines of a Deep-Sea Fish," 16 Feb. 2021 In a short time, biologists saw a dramatic increase in the eel population in the West Branch of the Susquehanna’s watershed. Mike Argento,, "Dammed, drugged, poisoned: Shad, eels and smallmouth bass struggle to survive in Susquehanna River," 27 Feb. 2021 The fish, dubbed Frankenfish by opponents, is the first animal to get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is manmade from an Atlantic salmon with genes spliced from Chinook and an eel-like ocean pout. Anchorage Daily News, "CDC requires commercial fishing crews to be masked at all times in U.S. waters," 16 Feb. 2021 Lurie went to the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, in hopes of procuring an eel. John Semley, The New Republic, "Painting With John Perfects the Art of Instruction," 5 Feb. 2021 These eel-like creatures lacked internal or external skeletons but their mouths had hard spurs that were readily fossilized, and made of materials that look similar to dentine and enamel. Matt Kaplan, Scientific American, "Fossil Scans Reveal Origins of Teeth," 16 Oct. 2013 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

2 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Eel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 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

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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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