man·​a·​tee | \ ˈma-nə-ˌtē How to pronounce manatee (audio) \

Definition of manatee

: 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

The highlight of the day was certainly finding two manatees right next to the reef. National Geographic, "Ocean Activities," 10 Sep. 2019 Boaters on the Mobile River have been urged to caution — only because a group of manatees were spotted frolicking nearby. Avi Selk, Washington Post, "Here in Alabama, no sign of Trump’s hurricane," 8 Sep. 2019 And it's believed many reported mermaid sightings, including those said to be seen by Christopher Columbus, were actually manatees. CBS News, "A tale of mermaids," 11 Aug. 2019 Conservationists and some politicians decried the changes as a major rollback of the 46-year old law credited with saving the bald eagle, grizzly bear, humpback whale, American alligator and Florida manatee from extinction., "New Trump rules weaken Endangered Species Act," 12 Aug. 2019 Designers of the dome used wacky things from throughout Central Florida to connect with visitors — including mermaids and manatees. Stephen Hudak,, "Mermaids, manatees, gators headline History Center auction but Orange Bird may steal the show," 9 Aug. 2019 But download the corresponding smartphone app, point the camera at the wall, and see plastic six-pack rings float near the manatee or watch the looming Burmese python give way to a video of the invasive species slithering in swampland. Erin Berger, Outside Online, "This Beautiful Art Makes Climate Change Feel Visceral," 24 July 2019 The deaths of some fish, sea turtles and even manatees have also been attributed to last year’s red tide, according to the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Talal Ansari, WSJ, "Florida’s Red Tide Killed At Least 174 Dolphins," 27 June 2019 The red tide has made breathing difficult for locals, scared away tourists, and strewn popular beaches with the stinking carcasses of fish, eels, porpoises, turtles, manatees and one 26-foot whale shark. Kate Furby, The Seattle Times, "Red tide algae’s deadly toll on sea life has triggered a state of emergency in Florida," 14 Aug. 2018

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

1555, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for manatee

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

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manatee grass



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Last Updated

7 Oct 2019

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The first known use of manatee was in 1555

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English Language Learners Definition of manatee

: a large animal that lives in warm waters and eats plants


man·​a·​tee | \ ˈma-nə-ˌtē How to pronounce manatee (audio) \

Kids Definition of manatee

: a mainly tropical water-dwelling mammal that eats plants and has a broad rounded tail

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with manatee

Spanish Central: Translation of manatee Encyclopedia article about manatee

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