li·​on | \ ˈlī-ən How to pronounce lion (audio) \
plural lions

Definition of lion

1a or plural lion : a large heavily built social cat (Panthera leo) of open or rocky areas chiefly of sub-Saharan Africa though once widely distributed throughout Africa and southern Asia that has a tawny body with a tufted tail and a shaggy blackish or dark brown mane in the male
b : any of several large wildcats especially : cougar sense 1
c capitalized : leo
2a : a person felt to resemble a lion (as in courage or ferocity)
b : a person of outstanding interest or importance a literary lion
3 capitalized [ Lions (club) ] : a member of a major national and international service club

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Other Words from lion

lionlike \ ˈlī-​ən-​ˌlīk How to pronounce lionlike (audio) \ adjective

Examples of lion in a Sentence

the roar of the lion He was a literary lion among the writers of his time.

Recent Examples on the Web

In terms of making the character his own, Chiwetel Ejiofor stands out by sinking his teeth into Scar, the envious lion who betrays his brother, Mufasa (James Earl Jones, reprising his role), and chases Simba away in order to steal his throne. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'The Lion King' hits familiar notes in adapting Disney classic," 11 July 2019 Over the years, Sue has taken on the lion’s share of caring for them. Carolyn Hax, The Mercury News, "Carolyn Hax: She’s at the end of her rope with the parents, and he says it’s ‘not his problem’," 7 July 2019 Over the years, Sue has taken on the lion’s share of caring for them. Carolyn Hax, Detroit Free Press, "Husband thinks elderly parents’ care is not his problem," 7 July 2019 Over the years, Sue has taken on the lion’s share of caring for them. Carolyn Hax,, "Carolyn Hax: Husband’s responsibility shirking may come back to haunt wife," 6 July 2019 But there was something curious about the Darajani lion. Douglas Main, National Geographic, "When lions attack porcupines, humans suffer unexpected consequences," 5 July 2019 Just as countries in Africa rely on the lion to draw safari tourists, island nations are using sharks to draw curiosity-seekers. William Mckeever,, "Summer on the Cape means shark panic. But what if we embraced these majestic fish, instead of pushing them away?," 3 July 2019 Teacher Rachel Wade watched students in her saving lions, wolves & dophins…oh my! Chuck Fieldman,, "District 181 summer learning program brings new experiences to the classroom," 26 June 2019 The lions must adjust to looking so directly at people — and having people stare eye-to-eye back at them. Talia Richman,, "'Look how close he is!' Maryland Zoo celebrates opening of revamped African Journey exhibits," 22 June 2019

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

12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for lion

Middle English lioun, from Anglo-French leun, lion, from Latin leon-, leo, from Greek leōn

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Statistics for lion

Last Updated

16 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for lion

The first known use of lion was in the 12th century

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More Definitions for lion



English Language Learners Definition of lion

: a large wild cat that has golden brown fur and that lives mainly in Africa
: a very important, powerful, or successful person


li·​on | \ ˈlī-ən How to pronounce lion (audio) \

Kids Definition of lion

: a large meat-eating animal of the cat family that has a brownish buff coat, a tufted tail, and in the male a shaggy mane and that lives in Africa and southern Asia

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More from Merriam-Webster on lion

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for lion

Spanish Central: Translation of lion

Nglish: Translation of lion for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of lion for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about lion

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