pi·​ra·​nha pə-ˈrä-nə How to pronounce piranha (audio)
-ˈran- How to pronounce piranha (audio)
plural piranhas or piranha
: any of various usually small South American characin fishes (genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus) that have very sharp teeth, often appear in schools, and include some that may attack and inflict dangerous wounds upon humans and large animals

called also caribe

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Currently, more than 20 piranha species can be found in the Amazon river, with up to 60 species in the lakes and rivers of South America. Allison Futterman, Discover Magazine, 1 Sep. 2022 At first glance, the fish might be mistaken for a piranha, but those famously bitey Amazonian natives are a relatively new species. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, 18 Oct. 2018 Charlie hires and fires a nice lawyer and buys back the piranha. Hunter Harris, Vulture, 27 May 2022 Blind cavefish and red-bellied piranha are found in the Fresh Water Zone. Dallas News, 5 Jan. 2022 The tooth shape, like that of a modern piranha, is adapted to cut fins and rip flesh out of larger prey. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, 18 Oct. 2018 The casting is top notch, too, especially Quaid as Jaeger, whose voice perfectly captures the kind of guy who would shave his face using a piranha. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 22 Nov. 2022 In the first episode – after a nasty incident with piranha that gets her expelled from her school – Wednesday is sent to Nevermore Academy and meets her new roommate, the happy-go-lucky Enid (Emma Myers). Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 23 Nov. 2022 Urban coyotes and smog, vegetarian piranha, mass extinction, cloning, molecular biology, the history of nutmeg, the upside of mosquitoes — Quammen has brought a rare patience and consistent informality to science writing. Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune, 15 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'piranha.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Portuguese, from Tupi pirã́ja, pirã́nʸa, from pirá fish + ã́ja, ã́nʸa tooth

First Known Use

1861, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of piranha was in 1861

Dictionary Entries Near piranha

Cite this Entry

“Piranha.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/piranha. Accessed 29 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


pi·​ra·​nha pə-ˈran-yə How to pronounce piranha (audio) -ˈrän-(y)ə How to pronounce piranha (audio)
: any of various usually small flesh-eating South American freshwater fishes that have very sharp teeth, often occur in groups, and include some that may attack human beings and animals in the water

More from Merriam-Webster on piranha

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