noun (1)
\ ˈlēch How to pronounce leech (audio) \
plural leeches

Definition of leech

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 [from its former use by physicians for bleeding patients] : any of numerous carnivorous or bloodsucking usually freshwater annelid worms (class Hirudinea) that have typically a flattened lanceolate segmented body with a sucker at each end
2 : a hanger-on who seeks advantage or gain a celebrity surrounded by leeches who only want his money
3 archaic : physician, surgeon


leeched; leeching; leeches

Definition of leech (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to attach oneself to a person as a leech … she would leech on to him and drain the life out of him.— W. L. Gresham

transitive verb

1 : to bleed by the use of leeches
2 : to drain the substance of : exhaust … bankers who had always leeched them white.— D. A. Munro


noun (2)
\ ˈlēch How to pronounce leech (audio) \
variants: or less commonly

Definition of leech (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : either vertical edge of a square sail
2 : the after edge of a fore-and-aft sail

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Other Words from leech

Noun (1)

leechlike \ ˈlēch-​ˌlīk How to pronounce leech (audio) \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for leech

Noun (1)

parasite, sycophant, toady, leech, sponge mean a usually obsequious flatterer or self-seeker. parasite applies to one who clings to a person of wealth, power, or influence or is useless to society. a jet-setter with an entourage of parasites sycophant adds to this a strong suggestion of fawning, flattery, or adulation. a powerful prince surrounded by sycophants toady emphasizes the servility and snobbery of the self-seeker. cultivated leaders of society and became their toady leech stresses persistence in clinging to or bleeding another for one's own advantage. a leech living off his family and friends sponge stresses the parasitic laziness, dependence, and opportunism of the cadger. a shiftless sponge, always looking for a handout

First Known Use of leech

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3


1641, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun (2)

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for leech

Noun (1) and Verb

Middle English leche, from Old English lǣce; akin to Old High German lāhhi physician

Noun (2)

Middle English leche; akin to Middle Low German līk boltrope

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Time Traveler for leech

Time Traveler

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

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Cite this Entry

“Leech.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leech. Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for leech


\ ˈlēch How to pronounce leech (audio) \

Kids Definition of leech

1 : a bloodsucking worm related to the earthworm
2 : a person who stays around other people and uses them for personal gain


\ ˈlēch How to pronounce leech (audio) \

Medical Definition of leech

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: any of numerous carnivorous or bloodsucking annelid worms that comprise the class Hirudinea, that typically have a flattened segmented lance-shaped body with well-marked external annulations, a sucker at each end, a mouth within the anterior sucker, and a large stomach with pouches of large capacity at the sides, that are hermaphroditic usually with direct development, and that occur chiefly in freshwater although a few are marine and some tropical forms are terrestrial — see medicinal leech


transitive verb

Medical Definition of leech (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to treat as a physician : cure, heal
2 : to bleed by the use of leeches

More from Merriam-Webster on leech

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for leech

Nglish: Translation of leech for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about leech


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