hy·​e·​na | \ hī-ˈē-nə How to pronounce hyena (audio) \
plural hyenas also hyena

Definition of hyena

: any of several large strong nocturnal carnivorous Old World mammals (family Hyaenidae) that usually feed as scavengers

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Other Words from hyena

hyenic \ hī-​ˈē-​nik How to pronounce hyenic (audio) , -​ˈe-​nik \ adjective

Did You Know?

There are three species of hyena— doglike carnivores found in Asia and Africa. Actually more closely related to cats than to dogs, hyenas have coarse fur, four toes on each foot, long forelegs, claws that do not retract, and enormously strong jaws and teeth. They live alone or in packs and may be active by night or day. Hyenas are noted for scavenging but will also attack live prey. The spotted, or laughing, hyena, whose calls alternately resemble wailing and maniacal laughter, ranges through much of sub-Saharan Africa. Yellowish or grayish with dark spots, it is about 6½ ft (1.8 m) long, including the 12-in (30-cm) tail, and weighs up to 175 lb (80 kg). The hyena has been known to attack people and even to carry off young children.

Examples of hyena in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

An evil lion with a deformed eye and hyena henchmen. Hannah Denham, Washington Post, "‘Lion King’ has been clouded by intellectual property controversy for 25 years. Here’s the story behind it.," 26 July 2019 The tourists found far fewer hyenas than the researchers, but their photos were the only surveying method to identify cheetahs at all. Eva Frederick, Science | AAAS, "Tourists on safari track leopards and lions just as well as scientists," 22 July 2019 In hyenas, bacteria synthesize many of the chemical compounds animals use to communicate, and changes to the microbes might have helped to push populations apart. Carrie Arnold, Quanta Magazine, "Evolving With a Little Help From Our Friends," 4 June 2014 The male hyenas The trio of hyenas in the original movie are iconic, thanks to Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings as Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, respectively. Sydney Bucksbaum, EW.com, "All the differences between the original Lion King and the remake," 23 July 2019 Scar then proceeds to desolate the kingdom, with the help of hyenas, while Simba, in exile, grows up to become a pleasure-hunting, grub-eating sluggard. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "Does “The Lion King” Need C.G.I.?," 19 July 2019 Scientists tell the Bend Bulletin the 40 million-year-old fossil discovered at the John Day Fossil Beds in eastern Oregon is from a Harpagolestes, a hoofed mammal that’s a cross between a pig and a hyena. USA TODAY, "Glowing rock fight, Statehouse stash, hometown hero: News from around our 50 states," 15 July 2019 Simba escapes a harrowing hyena attack inside a crumbling cave, and every ray of light hovers in the air thanks to dazzling dust-particle effects. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Lion King remake review: Roaring visuals, but the execution is a hairball," 12 July 2019 Whoopi Goldberg The star was already a household name before playing Shenzi, Scar’s chief lackey and leader of a hyena pack of three. Diane J. Cho, PEOPLE.com, "The Original Lion King Cast: Where Are They Now?," 24 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hyena.' 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 hyena

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for hyena

Middle English hyene, from Latin hyaena, from Greek hyaina, from hys hog — more at sow

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Dictionary Entries near hyena





hyena dog



Statistics for hyena

Last Updated

18 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for hyena

The first known use of hyena was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for hyena



English Language Learners Definition of hyena

: a large animal of Asia and Africa that eats the flesh of dead animals


hy·​e·​na | \ hī-ˈē-nə How to pronounce hyena (audio) \

Kids Definition of hyena

: a large doglike mammal of Asia and Africa that lives on flesh

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More from Merriam-Webster on hyena

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hyena

Spanish Central: Translation of hyena

Nglish: Translation of hyena for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hyena for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about hyena

Comments on hyena

What made you want to look up hyena? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not constant or steady

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