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

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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 Today, Hoch’s depiction of an authoritarian cult leader and his lemming-like followers carries a frightening contemporary charge. Washington Post, "Long before ‘Ghostbusters,’ fiction’s detectives were exploring the otherworldly," 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, "Roddy Doyle on Writing from the Pandemic," 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, "Pac-12 reverses course, opts to play shortened football season this fall," 24 Sep. 2020 During the Arctic summer, snowy owls feed primarily on small rodents called lemmings. Don Lyman, BostonGlobe.com, "Snowy owls are majestic visitors from the Arctic during winter in Massachusetts," 30 Dec. 2019 The main prey on her newfound home, meanwhile, is a type of rodent known as a lemming. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "A Young Arctic Fox Traveled From Norway to Canada in 76 Days," 3 July 2019 The animals, which have thick fur to survive cold environments and live to about age 4, eat fish, marine birds and small arctic rodents called lemmings. Washington Post, "Arctic fox walked from Norway to Canada seeking a new home," 3 July 2019 Now the farmers are leaving or dying but the mass of men – from baristas at Starbucks in Concord to worker bees in Silicon Valley – have succumbed to the Faustian Bargain, putting even lemmings jumping off cliffs to shame. Hasan Zillur Rahim, The Mercury News, "Opinion: Thoreau looms large on Independence Day," 3 July 2019 Foxes in Canada's Ellesmere Island eat mostly lemmings, which are small rodents. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Scientists "speechless" after fox makes 2,176-mile, 76-day trek from Norway to Canada," 2 July 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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Time Traveler for lemming

Time Traveler

The first known use of lemming was in 1713

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Statistics for lemming

Last Updated

15 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Lemming.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lemming. Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for lemming


How to pronounce lemming (audio)

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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