man·​a·​tee ˈma-nə-ˌtē How to pronounce manatee (audio)
: any of a genus (Trichechus of the family Trichechidae) of large, herbivorous, aquatic mammals that inhabit warm coastal and inland waters of the southeastern U.S., West Indies, northern South America, and West Africa and have a rounded body, a small head with a squarish snout, paddle-shaped flippers usually with vestigial nails, and a flattened, rounded tail used for propulsion

Note: Manatees are sirenians related to and resembling the dugong but differing most notably in the shape of the tail.

An aquatic relative of the elephant, manatees grow up to nine feet long and can weigh 1,000 pounds.Felicity Barringer

Illustration of manatee

Illustration of manatee

Examples of manatee in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web With six cabins and the popularity of both manatees and swimming, snagging a cabin here can take planning. Bonnie Gross, Miami Herald, 30 Jan. 2024 Since the organization’s founding, the manatee population has grown to 8,000. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, 26 Sep. 2023 Visitors can paddle the bay, where they’re all but guaranteed to spot crocodiles, manatees, and all manner of bird life. Alex Harris, Miami Herald, 1 Feb. 2024 The Plantation on Crystal River, an old-school hotel with a lagoon-style pool and rooms right on the river, also runs manatee tours right from its watery doorstep. Terry Ward, Condé Nast Traveler, 1 Feb. 2024 Hundreds of manatees flock to the warm waters off Crystal River each winter. WSJ, 30 Aug. 2023 On our kayaking trip, Campbell points out indentations along the shoreline made by manatees dragging themselves onto land in a desperate search for something to eat. Kiley Bense, Smithsonian Magazine, 9 Jan. 2024 Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium Located on City Island, the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is a world-class indoor/outdoor facility that houses manatees, sharks, sea turtles, otters, and more than 100 other marine species. Jacqueline Dole, Travel + Leisure, 14 Nov. 2023 According to Manatee Lagoon, a free educational tourist destination, manatee season runs from Nov. 15 through March 31. Nerdwallet, Hartford Courant, 7 Jan. 2024 See More

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

Word History


Spanish manatí, probably of Carib origin; akin to Antillean Carib manattoüi manatee

First Known Use

1555, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of manatee was in 1555

Dictionary Entries Near manatee

Cite this Entry

“Manatee.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


man·​a·​tee ˈman-ə-ˌtē How to pronounce manatee (audio)
: any of several chiefly tropical water-dwelling mammals that eat plants and differ from the related dugong especially in having the tail broad and rounded

More from Merriam-Webster on manatee

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