lem·​ming | \ ˈle-miŋ How to pronounce lemming (audio) \

Definition of lemming

: any of various small short-tailed furry-footed rodents (such as genera Lemmus and Dicrostonyx) of circumpolar distribution that are notable for population fluctuations and recurrent mass migrations Lemmings are the locusts of mammals, and they will strip a habitat bare. Then, they begin migrating forward to find a new feeding ground, swarming over boulders, around trees, whatever stands in their way. If they run into a body of water, they try to swim across.— Natalie Angier

Other Words from lemming

lemminglike \ ˈle-​miŋ-​ˌlīk How to pronounce lemming (audio) \ adjective
Lured by stock prices defying gravity and handsome bond yields, Americans have marched into the funds in lemminglike fashion. — Penelope Wang and David Pauly

Examples of lemming in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web One key species that is being affected by climate change in the tundra is the lemming. Devi Lockwood, Wired, 21 Sep. 2021 More lemmings feed more owls, but if a prosperous lemming season is not followed by another with the same productivity, an ecosystem can crash. Cara Korte, CBS News, 30 Jan. 2021 But hearing a lemming is only the first step in getting a meal. Jacob Job, The Conversation, 22 Feb. 2021 Some years may see higher lemming populations, but that doesn't necessarily help the owls in the long run. Cara Korte, CBS News, 30 Jan. 2021 Today, Hoch’s depiction of an authoritarian cult leader and his lemming-like followers carries a frightening contemporary charge. Washington Post, 9 Dec. 2020 Now there seems to be something both defiant and lemming-like—and just plain stupid—about them. Cressida Leyshon, The New Yorker, 12 Oct. 2020 Now, the conference, like a lemming off the cliff, is following the path of the other Power-5 conferences. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, 24 Sep. 2020 During the Arctic summer, snowy owls feed primarily on small rodents called lemmings. Don Lyman, BostonGlobe.com, 30 Dec. 2019

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

1713, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for lemming


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The first known use of lemming was in 1713

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Dictionary Entries Near lemming



lemming mouse

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Cite this Entry

“Lemming.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lemming. Accessed 19 Jan. 2022.

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English Language Learners Definition of lemming

: a small animal that lives in northern areas of North America, Europe, and Asia

More from Merriam-Webster on lemming

Nglish: Translation of lemming for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about lemming


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