pro·​bos·​cis | \ prə-ˈbä-səs How to pronounce proboscis (audio) , -ˈbä-skəs How to pronounce proboscis (audio) \
plural proboscises also proboscides\ prə-​ˈbä-​sə-​ˌdēz How to pronounce proboscides (audio) \

Definition of proboscis

1a : the trunk of an elephant also : any long flexible snout
b : the human nose especially when prominent
2 : any of various elongated or extensible tubular processes (such as the sucking organ of a butterfly) of the oral region of an invertebrate

Illustration of proboscis

Illustration of proboscis

P proboscis 2

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Synonyms for proboscis


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Examples of proboscis in a Sentence

if there were a direct relation between mendacity and the length of one's proboscis, hers would be a mile long
Recent Examples on the Web On Adam’s computer screen, the ship now looked like a robotic housefly, its proboscis probing toward an enormous, crumbly piece of gray bread. Chris Wright, Wired, "The Remarkable Stuff Scientists Get Done as They Work From Home," 8 June 2020 For hundreds of years, virtually everyone had taken for granted that the butterfly proboscis was a drinking straw. Popular Science, "We can soon thank butterfly tongues for better cancer treatments and vaccines," 2 June 2020 The bees soon cut several holes in the leaves of each plant using their mandibles and proboscises. Jim Daley, Scientific American, "Bumblebees Bite Plants to Force Them to Flower (Seriously)," 21 May 2020 When the researchers dabbed the bitter compound on the flies’ proboscis, neurons with their opsins intact sent off nearly 20 impulses per second. Mitch Leslie, Science | AAAS, "Proteins that sense light also sense taste, at least in fruit flies," 2 Apr. 2020 About 21 years later, the African hawkmoth was discovered with a foot-long, straw-like mouth called a proboscis. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Flowers Marvelously Evolved Resilience," 17 Apr. 2020 Here’s an image of the rare Dendrophylax lindenii, with its long nectar tubes, into which moths stick their tonguelike proboscises. National Geographic, "Why are these dogs good soldiers?," 31 Oct. 2019 The scientists suspected that the insect’s proboscis wouldn’t be able to penetrate the graphene barrier. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Graphene-Coated Fabric Causes Mosquitoes to Buzz Off," 20 Aug. 2019 Ideally, the nectar will attract a moth, which will elongate its tongue-like proboscis and stick its head into the tube. Douglas Main, National Geographic, "Discovery reveals secrets about how ghost orchids reproduce," 11 July 2019

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

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for proboscis

Latin, from Greek proboskis, from pro- + boskein to feed

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Time Traveler for proboscis

Time Traveler

The first known use of proboscis was in 1601

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Statistics for proboscis

Last Updated

18 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Proboscis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for proboscis


How to pronounce proboscis (audio) How to pronounce proboscis (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of proboscis

biology : the long, thin nose of some animals (such as an elephant)
biology : a long, thin tube that forms part of the mouth of some insects (such as a butterfly)
humorous : a person's nose especially when it is very long or big


pro·​bos·​cis | \ prə-ˈbä-səs How to pronounce proboscis (audio) , -ˈbäs-kəs \

Kids Definition of proboscis

: a long flexible hollow body part (as the trunk of an elephant)


pro·​bos·​cis | \ prə-ˈbäs-əs How to pronounce proboscis (audio) , -kəs How to pronounce proboscis (audio) \
plural proboscises also proboscides\ -​ˈbäs-​ə-​ˌdēz How to pronounce proboscides (audio) \

Medical Definition of proboscis

: any of various elongated or extensible tubular organs or processes especially of the oral region of an invertebrate: as
a : a sucking organ of insects (as houseflies or mosquitoes) that is often also adapted for piercing
b : one of the complex protrusible holdfasts on the scolex of certain tapeworms

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