lem·​ming ˈle-miŋ How to pronounce lemming (audio)
: 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
lemminglike 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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Many reviewers have emphasized Robb’s critiques of ballet culture, concluding that the women who still engage with it must harbor self-destructive impulses as inscrutable as those that drive lemmings off a cliff. Madison Mainwaring, The New Republic, 19 Apr. 2023 This technique is commonly found among Arctic animals, including hares, foxes, lemmings and a bird called the ptarmigan. Allison Futterman, Discover Magazine, 6 Mar. 2023 The world will soon be awash with a lemming-run of roadster owners bending their dealers' ears in search of handling fixes to rectify the dirt done them by Rabbit convertibles. Larry Griffin, Car and Driver, 3 Mar. 2023 Don't back down Instead of letting others walk all over you, channel the Norwegian lemming, a cute little rodent that's bizarrely aggressive. Elizabeth Preston, Discover Magazine, 31 Dec. 2015 Distrust in institutions isn’t an artifact of a lemming-like following of Donald Trump (Letters, Aug. 23). WSJ, 24 Aug. 2022 That’s the latest chapter in this tale of a CEO who followed his woke staff like a lemming off the cliff of cultural politics. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 21 Apr. 2022 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 See More

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

Word History



First Known Use

1713, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of lemming was in 1713

Dictionary Entries Near lemming

Cite this Entry

“Lemming.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lemming. Accessed 1 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


lem·​ming ˈlem-iŋ How to pronounce lemming (audio)
: any of several small short-tailed northern rodents with furry feet and small ears
especially : a European rodent that takes part in periodic mass migrations which often continue into the sea where large numbers are drowned

More from Merriam-Webster on lemming

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!