gam·​bu·​sia gam-ˈbü-zh(ē-)ə How to pronounce gambusia (audio)
plural gambusias
: any of a genus (Gambusia) of chiefly fresh-water fish (family Poeciliidae) that are live-bearers and include some used to control mosquitoes by introduction into waters where the fish feed on mosquito larvae compare mosquito fish

Examples of gambusia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The springs are perfect habitat for numerous species of aquatic animals, including two small, endangered desert fishes -- the Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish, according to the release. Midland Reporter-Telegram, Houston Chronicle, 16 June 2020 The Barbour’s map turtle, the Big Blue Springs cave crayfish, and the San Felipe gambusia were also left off the list. Nick Tabor, Daily Intelligencer, 21 Dec. 2017 Tight to the shoreline, especially in the shallows where water willow and other aquatic vegetation have gained a root-hold, a half-dozen or more species of small fish - gambusia, shiners and minnows - cluster nervously and for good reason. Shannon Tompkins, Houston Chronicle, 21 Oct. 2017 Keep your ponds mosquito-free by adding some gambusia affinis — the mosquitofish — and throwing in a few mosquito donuts. 6. Jamie Wiebe, House Beautiful, 6 Aug. 2017 Saba gives some of the credit to the inch-long gambusia. Keith Sharon, Orange County Register, 17 May 2017 Lake County officials are also deploying larvicides and sprays, as well as gambusia minnows, which eat mosquito larvae, Scott said. Amelia Cheatham,, 12 July 2017 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gambusia.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from New Latin, genus name, from Cuban Spanish gambusino (in the idiom pescar gambusinos "to engage in a fruitless activity," literally, "to fish for gambusinos"; of uncertain origin) + New Latin -ia -ia entry 1

Note: The name Gambusia was introduced by the Cuban zoologist Felipe Poey (1799-1891) in Memorias sobre la historia natural de la isla de Cuba, vol. 1 (Havana, 1851), pp. 382-83. Poey states somewhat cryptically "El nombre debe su etimología á la palabra provincial cubana Gambusino, que significa nada, con idea de chasco ó burla: así se dice pescar Gambusinos cuando no se pesca nada." ("The name owes it etymology to the provincial Cuban word Gambusino, which means nothing, in the context of a joke or jest: so one says 'to catch Gambusinos' when nothing is caught.") Though unstated, the implication is perhaps that the word gambusino is actually a local name for the fish Gambusia punctata—otherwise, his coinage lacks evident motivation. Note that while Poey gives guajacón as the vernacular name for Gambusia punctata, the corresponding name for his Gambusia puncticulata is gambusito. Gambusino is entered in several lexica of 19th-century Cuban Spanish with basically the same meaning as given by Poey but no further etymological illumination (perhaps earliest in Esteban Pichardo Tapia, Diccionario provincial de voces cubanos, 1836).

First Known Use

circa 1889, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of gambusia was circa 1889

Dictionary Entries Near gambusia

Cite this Entry

“Gambusia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

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